The first volume of these Poems has already been submitted to general perusal. It was published, as an experiment, which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet may rationally endeavour to impart.
I had formed no very inaccurate estimate of the probable effect of those Poems: I flattered myself that they who should be pleased with them would read them with more than common pleasure: and, on the other hand, I was well aware, that by those who should dislike them they would be read with more than common dislike. The result has differed from my expectation in this only, that I have pleased a greater number, than I ventured to hope I should please.
For the sake of variety, and from a consciousness of my own weakness, I was induced to request the assistance of a Friend, who furnished me with the Poems of the “Ancient Mariner,” the “Foster-Mother’s Tale,” the “Nightingale,” and the Poem entitled “Love.” I should not, however, have requested this assistance, had I not believed that the Poems of my Friend would in a great measure have the same tendency as my own, and that, though there would be found a difference, there would be found no discordance in the colours of our style; as our opinions on the subject of poetry do almost entirely coincide.
Several of my Friends are anxious for the success of these Poems from a belief, that, if the views with which they were composed were indeed realized, a class of Poetry would be produced, well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and not unimportant in the multiplicity, and in the quality of its moral relations: and on this account they have advised me to prefix a systematic defence of the theory upon which the poems were written. But I was unwilling to undertake the task, because I knew that on this occasion the Reader would look coldly upon my arguments, since I might be suspected of having been principally influenced by the selfish and foolish hope of reasoning him into an approbation of these particular Poems: and I was still more unwilling to undertake the task, because, adequately to display my opinions, and fully to enforce my arguments, would require a space wholly disproportionate to the nature of a preface. For to treat the subject with the clearness and coherence, of which I believe it susceptible, it would be necessary to give a full account of the present state of the public taste in this country, and to determine how far this taste is healthy or depraved; which, again, could not be determined, without pointing out, in what manner language and the human mind act and react on each other, and without retracing the revolutions, not of literature alone, but likewise of society itself. I have therefore altogether declined to enter regularly upon this defence; yet I am sensible, that there would be some impropriety in abruptly obtruding upon the Public, without a few words of introduction, Poems so materially different from those, upon which general approbation is at present bestowed.
It is supposed, that by the act of writing in verse an Author makes a formal engagement that he will gratify certain known habits of association; that he not only thus apprizes the Reader that certain classes of ideas and expressions will be found in his book, but that others will be carefully excluded. This exponent or symbol held forth by metrical language must in different æras of literature have excited very different expectations: for example, in the age of Catullus, Terence and Lucretius, and that of Statius or Claudian; and in our own country, in the age of Shakespeare and Beaumont and Fletcher, and that of Donne and Cowley, or Dryden, or Pope. I will not take upon me to determine the exact import of the promise which by the act of writing in verse an Author, in the present day, makes to his Reader; but I am certain, it will appear to many persons that I have not fulfilled the terms of an engagement thus voluntarily contracted. They who have been accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will, no doubt, frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and aukwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. I hope therefore the Reader will not censure me, if I attempt to state what I have proposed to myself to perform; and also, (as far as the limits of a preface will permit) to explain some of the chief reasons which have determined me in the choice of my purpose: that at least he may be spared any unpleasant feeling of disappointment, and that I myself may be protected from the most dishonourable accusation which can be brought against an Author, namely, that of an indolence which prevents him from endeavouring to ascertain what is his duty, or when his duty is ascertained, prevents him from performing it.
The principal object, then, which I proposed to myself in these Poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible, in a selection of language really used by men; and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way; and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement. Low and rustic life was generally chosen, because in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings coexist in a state of greater simplicity, and, consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings; and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended; and are more durable; and lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature. The language, too, of these men is adopted (purified indeed from what appear to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of dislike or disgust) because such men hourly communicate with the best objects from which the best part of language is originally derived; and because, from their rank in society and the sameness and narrow circle of their intercourse, being less under the action of social vanity they convey their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions. Accordingly, such a language, arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings, is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language, than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets, who think that they are conferring honour upon themselves and their art, in proportion as they separate themselves from the sympathies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of expression, in order to furnish food for fickle tastes, and fickle appetites, of their own creation.1
I cannot, however, be insensible of the present outcry against the triviality and meanness both of thought and language, which some of my contemporaries have occasionally introduced into their metrical compositions; and I acknowledge that this defect, where it exists, is more dishonourable to the Writer’s own character than false refinement or arbitrary innovation, though I should contend at the same time that it is far less pernicious in the sum of its consequences. From such verses the Poems in these volumes will be found distinguished at least by one mark of difference, that each of them has a worthy purpose. Not that I mean to say, that I always began to write with a distinct purpose formally conceived; but I believe that my habits of meditation have so formed my feelings, as that my descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. If in this opinion I am mistaken, I can have little right to the name of a Poet. For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man, who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and, as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other we discover what is really important to men, so, by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced, that, by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments, of such a nature and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the being to whom we address ourselves, if he be in a healthful state of association, must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections ameliorated.
I have said that each of these poems has a purpose. I have also informed my Reader what this purpose will be found principally to be: namely, to illustrate the manner in which our feelings and ideas are associated in a state of excitement. But, speaking in language somewhat more appropriate, it is to follow the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when agitated by the great and simple affections of our nature. This object I have endeavoured in these short essays to attain by various means; by tracing the maternal passion through many of its more subtle windings, as in the poems of the “Idiot Boy” and the “Mad Mother”; by accompanying the last struggles of a human being, at the approach of death, cleaving in solitude to life and society, as in the Poem of the “Forsaken Indian”; by showing, as in the Stanzas entitled “We Are Seven,” the perplexity and obscurity which in childhood attend our notion of death, or rather our utter inability to admit that notion; or by displaying the strength of fraternal, or to speak more philosophically, of moral attachment when early associated with the great and beautiful objects of nature, as in “The Brothers”; or, as in the Incident of “Simon Lee,” by placing my Reader in the way of receiving from ordinary moral sensations another and more salutary impression than we are accustomed to receive from them. It has also been part of my general purpose to attempt to sketch characters under the influence of less impassioned feelings, as in the “Two April Mornings,” “The Fountain,” “The Old Man Travelling,” “The Two Thieves,” etc. characters of which the elements are simple, belonging rather to nature than to manners, such as exist now, and will probably always exist, and which from their constitution may be distinctly and profitably contemplated. I will not abuse the indulgence of my Reader by dwelling longer upon this subject; but it is proper that I should mention one other circumstance which distinguishes these Poems from the popular Poetry of the day; it is this, that the feeling therein developed gives importance to the action and situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling. My meaning will be rendered perfectly intelligible by referring my Reader to the Poems entitled “Poor Susan” and the “Childless Father,” particularly to the last Stanza of the latter Poem.
I will not suffer a sense of false modesty to prevent me from asserting, that I point my Reader’s attention to this mark of distinction, far less for the sake of these particular Poems than from the general importance of the subject. The subject is indeed important! For the human mind is capable of being excited without the application of gross and violent stimulants; and he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity who does not know this, and who does not further know, that one being is elevated above another, in proportion as he possesses this capability. It has therefore appeared to me, that to endeavour to produce or enlarge this capability is one of the best services in which, at any period, a Writer can be engaged; but this service, excellent at all times, is especially so at the present day. For a multitude of causes, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of the occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident, which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves. The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespeare and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse.—When I think upon this degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation, I am almost ashamed to have spoken of the feeble effort with which I have endeavoured to counteract it; and, reflecting upon the magnitude of the general evil, I should be oppressed with no dishonorable melancholy, had I not a deep impression of certain inherent and indestructible qualities of the human mind, and likewise of certain powers in the great and permanent objects that act upon it, which are equally inherent and indestructible; and did I not further add to this impression a belief, that the time is approaching when the evil will be systematically opposed, by men of greater powers, and with far more distinguished success.
Having dwelt thus long on the subjects and aim of these Poems, I shall request the Reader’s permission to apprize him of a few circumstances relating to their style, in order, among other reasons, that I may not be censured for not having performed what I never attempted. The Reader will find that personifications of abstract ideas rarely occur in these volumes; and, I hope, are utterly rejected as an ordinary device to elevate the style, and raise it above prose. I have proposed to myself to imitate, and, as far as is possible, to adopt the very language of men; and assuredly such personifications do not make any natural or regular part of that language. They are, indeed, a figure of speech occasionally prompted by passion, and I have made use of them as such; but I have endeavoured utterly to reject them as a mechanical device of style, or as a family language which Writers in metre seem to lay claim to by prescription. I have wished to keep my Reader in the company of flesh and blood, persuaded that by so doing I shall interest him. I am, however, well aware that others who pursue a different track may interest him likewise; I do not interfere with their claim, I only wish to prefer a different claim of my own. There will also be found in these volumes little of what is usually called poetic diction; I have taken as much pains to avoid it as others ordinarily take to produce it; this I have done for the reason already alleged, to bring my language near to the language of men, and further, because the pleasure which I have proposed to myself to impart is of a kind very different from that which is supposed by many persons to be the proper object of poetry. I do not know how, without being culpably particular, I can give my Reader a more exact notion of the style in which I wished these poems to be written than by informing him that I have at all times endeavoured to look steadily at my subject, consequently, I hope that there is in these Poems little falsehood of description, and that my ideas are expressed in language fitted to their respective importance. Something I must have gained by this practice, as it is friendly to one property of all good poetry, namely good sense; but it has necessarily cut me off from a large portion of phrases and figures of speech which from father to son have long been regarded as the common inheritance of Poets. I have also thought it expedient to restrict myself still further, having abstained from the use of many expressions, in themselves proper and beautiful, but which have been foolishly repeated by bad Poets, till such feelings of disgust are connected with them as it is scarcely possible by any art of association to overpower.
If in a poem there should be found a series of lines, or even a single line, in which the language, though naturally arranged, and according to the strict laws of metre, does not differ from that of prose, there is a numerous class of critics, who, when they stumble upon these prosaisms, as they call them, imagine that they have made a notable discovery, and exult over the Poet as over a man ignorant of his own profession. Now these men would establish a canon of criticism which the Reader will conclude he must utterly reject, if he wishes to be pleased with these volumes. And it would be a most easy task to prove to him, that not only the language of a large portion of every good poem, even of the most elevated character, must necessarily, except with reference to the metre, in no respect differ from that of good prose, but likewise that some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be found to be strictly the language of prose, when prose is well written. The truth of this assertion might be demonstrated by innumerable passages from almost all the poetical writings, even of Milton himself. I have not space for much quotation; but, to illustrate the subject in a general manner, I will here adduce a short composition of Gray, who was at the head of those who, by their reasonings, have attempted to widen the space of separation betwixt prose and metrical composition, and was more than any other man curiously elaborate in the structure of his own poetic diction.
In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
And reddening Phœbus lifts his golden fire:
The birds in vain their amorous descant join,
Or cheerful fields resume their green attire.
These ears alas! for other notes repine;
A different object do these eyes require;
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
And in my breast the imperfect joys expire;
Yet morning smiles the busy race to cheer,
And new-born pleasure brings to happier men;
The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;
To warm their little loves the birds complain.
I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear,
And weep the more because I weep in vain.
It will easily by perceived that the only part of this Sonnet which is of any value is the lines printed in Italics: it is equally obvious, that, except in the rhyme, and in the use of the single word “fruitless” for fruitlessly, which is so far a defect, the language of these lines does in no respect differ from that of prose.
By the foregoing quotation I have shown that the language of Prose may yet be well adapted to Poetry; and I have previously asserted that a large portion of the language of every good poem can in no respect differ from that of good Prose. I will go further. I do not doubt that it may be safely affirmed, that there neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition. We are fond of tracing the resemblance between Poetry and Painting, and, accordingly, we call them Sisters: but where shall we find bonds of connection sufficiently strict to typify the affinity betwixt metrical and prose composition? They both speak by and to the same organs; the bodies in which both of them are clothed may be said to be of the same substance, their affections are kindred, and almost identical, not necessarily differing even in degree;
Poetry2 sheds no tears “such as Angels weep,” but natural and human tears; she can boast of no celestial Ichor that distinguishes her vital juices from those of prose; the same human blood circulates through the veins of them both.
If it be affirmed that rhyme and metrical arrangement of themselves constitute a distinction which overturns what I have been saying on the strict affinity of metrical language with that of prose, and paves the way for other artificial distinctions which the mind voluntarily admits, I answer that the language of such Poetry as I am recommending is, as far as is possible, a selection of the language really spoken by men; that this selection, wherever it is made with true taste and feeling, will of itself form a distinction far greater than would at first be imagined, and will entirely separate the composition from the vulgarity and meanness of ordinary life; and, if metre be superadded thereto, I believe that a dissimilitude will be produced altogether sufficient for the gratification of a rational mind. What other distinction would we have? Whence is it to come? And where is it to exist? Not, surely, where the Poet speaks through the mouths of his characters: it cannot be necessary here, either for elevation of style, or any of its supposed ornaments: for, if the Poet’s subject be judiciously chosen, it will naturally, and upon fit occasion, lead him to passions the language of which, if selected truly and judiciously, must necessarily be dignified and variegated, and alive with metaphors and figures. I forbear to speak of an incongruity which would shock the intelligent Reader, should the Poet interweave any foreign splendour of his own with that which the passion naturally suggests: it is sufficient to say that such addition is unnecessary. And, surely, it is more probable that those passages, which with propriety abound with metaphors and figures, will have their due effect, if, upon other occasions where the passions are of a milder character, the style also be subdued and temperate.
But, as the pleasure which I hope to give by the Poems I now present to the Reader must depend entirely on just notions upon this subject, and, as it is in itself of the highest importance to our taste and moral feelings, I cannot content myself with these detached remarks. And if, in what I am about to say, it shall appear to some that my labour is unnecessary, and that I am like a man fighting a battle without enemies, I would remind such persons, that, whatever may be the language outwardly holden by men, a practical faith in the opinions which I am wishing to establish is almost entirely unknown. If my conclusions are admitted, and carried as far as they must be carried if admitted at all, our judgments concerning the works of the greatest Poets both ancient and modern will be far different from what they are at present, both when we praise, and when we censure: and our moral feelings influencing, and influenced by these judgments will, I believe, be corrected and purified.
Taking up the subject, then, upon general grounds, I ask what is meant by the word Poet? What is a Poet? To whom does he address himself? And what language is to be expected from him? He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them. To these qualities he has added a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present; an ability of conjuring up in himself passions, which are indeed far from being the same as those produced by real events, yet (especially in those parts of the general sympathy which are pleasing and delightful) do more nearly resemble the passions produced by real events, than anything which, from the motions of their own minds merely, other men are accustomed to feel in themselves; whence, and from practice, he has acquired a greater readiness and power in expressing what he thinks and feels, and especially those thoughts and feelings which, by his own choice, or from the structure of his own mind, arise in him without immediate external excitement.
But, whatever portion of this faculty we may suppose even the greatest Poet to possess, there cannot be a doubt but that the language which it will suggest to him, must, in liveliness and truth, fall far short of that which is uttered by men in real life, under the actual pressure of those passions, certain shadows of which the Poet thus produces, or feels to be produced, in himself.
However exalted a notion we would wish to cherish of the character of a Poet, it is obvious, that, while he describes and imitates passions, his situation is altogether slavish and mechanical, compared with the freedom and power of real and substantial action and suffering. So that it will be the wish of the Poet to bring his feelings near to those of the persons whose feelings he describes, nay, for short spaces of time perhaps, to let himself slip into an entire delusion, and even confound and identify his own feelings with theirs; modifying only the language which is thus suggested to him, by a consideration that he describes for a particular purpose, that of giving pleasure. Here, then, he will apply the principle on which I have so much insisted, namely, that of selection; on this he will depend for removing what would otherwise be painful or disgusting in the passion; he will feel that there is no necessity to trick out or to elevate nature: and, the more industriously he applies this principle, the deeper will be his faith that no words, which his fancy or imagination can suggest, will be to be compared with those which are the emanations of reality and truth.
But it may be said by those who do not object to the general spirit of these remarks, that, as it is impossible for the Poet to produce upon all occasions language as exquisitely fitted for the passion as that which the real passion itself suggests, it is proper that he should consider himself as in the situation of a translator, who deems himself justified when he substitutes excellences of another kind for those which are unattainable by him; and endeavours occasionally to surpass his original, in order to make some amends for the general inferiority to which he feels that he must submit. But this would be to encourage idleness and unmanly despair. Further, it is the language of men who speak of what they do not understand; who talk of Poetry as of a matter of amusement and idle pleasure; who will converse with us as gravely about a taste for Poetry, as they express it, as if it were a thing as indifferent as a taste for Rope-dancing, or Frontiniac or Sherry. Aristotle, I have been told, hath said, that Poetry is the most philosophic of all writing: it is so: its object is truth, not individual and local, but general, and operative; not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart by passion; truth which is its own testimony, which gives strength and divinity to the tribunal to which it appeals, and receives them from the same tribunal. Poetry is the image of man and nature. The obstacles which stand in the way of the fidelity of the Biographer and Historian, and of their consequent utility, are incalculably greater than those which are to be encountered by the Poet who has an adequate notion of the dignity of his art. The Poet writes under one restriction only, namely, that of the necessity of giving immediate pleasure to a human Being possessed of that information which may be expected from him, not as a lawyer, a physician, a mariner, an astronomer or a natural philosopher, but as a Man. Except this one restriction, there is no object standing between the Poet and the image of things; between this, and the Biographer and Historian there are a thousand.
Nor let this necessity of producing immediate pleasure be considered as a degradation of the Poet’s art. It is far otherwise. It is an acknowledgment of the beauty of the universe, an acknowledgment the more sincere, because it is not formal, but indirect; it is a task light and easy to him who looks at the world in the spirit of love: further, it is a homage paid to the native and naked dignity of man, to the grand elementary principle of pleasure, by which he knows, and feels, and lives, and moves. We have no sympathy but what is propagated by pleasure: I would not be misunderstood; but wherever we sympathize with pain it will be found that the sympathy is produced and carried on by subtle combinations with pleasure. We have no knowledge, that is, no general principles drawn from the contemplation of particular facts, but what has been built up by pleasure, and exists in us by pleasure alone. The Man of Science, the Chemist and Mathematician, whatever difficulties and disgusts they may have had to struggle with, know and feel this. However painful may be the objects with which the Anatomist’s knowledge is connected, he feels that his knowledge is pleasure; and where he has no pleasure he has no knowledge. What then does the Poet? He considers man and the objects that surround him as acting and reacting upon each other, so as to produce an infinite complexity of pain and pleasure; he considers man in his own nature and in his ordinary life as contemplating this with a certain quantity of immediate knowledge, with certain convictions, intuitions, and deductions which by habit become of the nature of intuitions; he considers him as looking upon this complex scene of ideas and sensations, and finding every where objects that immediately excite in him sympathies which, from the necessities of his nature, are accompanied by an overbalance of enjoyment.
To this knowledge which all men carry about with them, and to these sympathies in which without any other discipline than that of our daily life we are fitted to take delight, the Poet principally directs his attention. He considers man and nature as essentially adapted to each other, and the mind of man as naturally the mirror of the fairest and most interesting qualities of nature. And thus the Poet, prompted by this feeling of pleasure which accompanies him through the whole course of his studies, converses with general nature with affections akin to those, which, through labour and length of time, the Man of Science has raised up in himself, by conversing with those particular parts of nature which are the objects of his studies. The knowledge both of the Poet and the Man of Science is pleasure; but the knowledge of the one cleaves to us as a necessary part of our existence, our natural and unalienable inheritance; the other is a personal and individual acquisition, slow to come to us, and by no habitual and direct sympathy connecting us with our fellow-beings. The Man of Science seeks truth as a remote and unknown benefactor; he cherishes and loves it in his solitude: the Poet, singing a song in which all human beings join with him, rejoices in the presence of truth as our visible friend and hourly companion. Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science. Emphatically may it be said of the Poet, as Shakespeare hath said of man, “that he looks before and after.” He is the rock of defence of human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying every where with him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the Poet’s thoughts are every where; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favourite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge—it is as immortal as the heart of man. If the labours of Men of Science should ever create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our condition, and in the impressions which we habitually receive, the Poet will sleep then no more than at present, but he will be ready to follow the steps of the Man of Science, not only in those general indirect effects, but he will be at his side, carrying sensation into the midst of the objects of the Science itself. The remotest discoveries of the Chemist, the Botanist, or Mineralogist, will be as proper objects of the Poet’s art as any upon which it can be employed, if the time should ever come when these things shall be familiar to us, and the relations under which they are contemplated by the followers of these respective Sciences shall be manifestly and palpably material to us as enjoying and suffering beings. If the time should ever come when what is now called Science, thus familiarized to men, shall be ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh and blood, the Poet will lend his divine spirit to aid the transfiguration, and will welcome the Being thus produced, as a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man.—It is not, then, to be supposed that anyone, who holds that sublime notion of Poetry which I have attempted to convey, will break in upon the sanctity and truth of his pictures by transitory and accidental ornaments, and endeavour to excite admiration of himself by arts, the necessity of which must manifestly depend upon the assumed meanness of his subject.
What I have thus far said applies to Poetry in general; but especially to those parts of composition where the Poet speaks through the mouths of his characters; and upon this point it appears to have such weight that I will conclude, there are few persons of good sense, who would not allow that the dramatic parts of composition are defective, in proportion as they deviate from the real language of nature, and are coloured by a diction of the Poet’s own, either peculiar to him as an individual Poet, or belonging simply to Poets in general, to a body of men who, from the circumstance of their compositions being in metre, it is expected will employ a particular language.
It is not, then, in the dramatic parts of composition that we look for this distinction of language; but still it may be proper and necessary where the Poet speaks to us in his own person and character. To this I answer by referring my Reader to the description which I have before given of a Poet. Among the qualities which I have enumerated as principally conducing to form a Poet, is implied nothing differing in kind from other men, but only in degree. The sum of what I have there said is, that the Poet is chiefly distinguished from other men by a greater promptness to think and feel without immediate external excitement, and a greater power in expressing such thoughts and feelings as are produced in him in that manner. But these passions and thoughts and feelings are the general passions and thoughts and feelings of men. And with what are they connected? Undoubtedly with our moral sentiments and animal sensations, and with the causes which excite these; with the operations of the elements and the appearances of the visible universe; with storm and sunshine, with the revolutions of the seasons, with cold and heat, with loss of friends and kindred, with injuries and resentments, gratitude and hope, with fear and sorrow. These, and the like, are the sensations and objects which the Poet describes, as they are the sensations of other men, and the objects which interest them. The Poet thinks and feels in the spirit of the passions of men. How, then, can his language differ in any material degree from that of all other men who feel vividly and see clearly? It might be proved that it is impossible. But supposing that this were not the case, the Poet might then be allowed to use a peculiar language when expressing his feelings for his own gratification, or that of men like himself. But Poets do not write for Poets alone, but for men. Unless therefore we are advocates for that admiration which depends upon ignorance, and that pleasure which arises from hearing what we do not understand, the Poet must descend from this supposed height, and, in order to excite rational sympathy, he must express himself as other men express themselves. To this it may be added, that while he is only selecting from the real language of men, or, which amounts to the same thing, composing accurately in the spirit of such selection, he is treading upon safe ground, and we know what we are to expect from him. Our feelings are the same with respect to metre; for, as it may be proper to remind the Reader, the distinction of metre is regular and uniform, and not like that which is produced by what is usually called poetic diction, arbitrary, and subject to infinite caprices upon which no calculation whatever can be made. In the one case, the Reader is utterly at the mercy of the Poet respecting what imagery or diction he may choose to connect with the passion, whereas, in the other, the metre obeys certain laws, to which the Poet and Reader both willingly submit because they are certain, and because no interference is made by them with the passion but such as the concurring testimony of ages has shown to heighten and improve the pleasure which coexists with it.
It will now be proper to answer an obvious question, namely, Why, professing these opinions, have I written in verse? To this, in addition to such answer as is included in what I have already said, I reply in the first place, Because, however I may have restricted myself, there is still left open to me what confessedly constitutes the most valuable object of all writing, whether in prose or verse, the great and universal passions of men, the most general and interesting of their occupations, and the entire world of nature, from which I am at liberty to supply myself with endless combinations of forms and imagery. Now, supposing for a moment that whatever is interesting in these objects may be as vividly described in prose, why am I to be condemned, if to such description I have endeavoured to superadd the charm which, by the consent of all nations, is acknowledged to exist in metrical language? To this, by such as are unconvinced by what I have already said, it may be answered, that a very small part of the pleasure given by Poetry depends upon the metre, and that it is injudicious to write in metre, unless it be accompanied with the other artificial distinctions of style with which metre is usually accompanied, and that by such deviation more will be lost from the shock which will be thereby given to the Reader’s associations, than will be counterbalanced by any pleasure which he can derive from the general power of numbers. In answer to those who still contend for the necessity of accompanying metre with certain appropriate colours of style in order to the accomplishment of its appropriate end, and who also, in my opinion, greatly underrate the power of metre in itself, it might perhaps, as far as relates to these Poems, have been almost sufficient to observe, that poems are extant, written upon more humble subjects, and in a more naked and simple style than I have aimed at, which poems have continued to give pleasure from generation to generation. Now, if nakedness and simplicity be a defect, the fact here mentioned affords a strong presumption that poems somewhat less naked and simple are capable of affording pleasure at the present day; and, what I wished chiefly to attempt, at present, was to justify myself for having written under the impression of this belief.
But I might point out various causes why, when the style is manly, and the subject of some importance, words metrically arranged will long continue to impart such a pleasure to mankind as he who is sensible of the extent of that pleasure will be desirous to impart. The end of Poetry is to produce excitement in coexistence with an overbalance of pleasure. Now, by the supposition, excitement is an unusual and irregular state of the mind; ideas and feelings do not in that state succeed each other in accustomed order. But, if the words by which this excitement is produced are in themselves powerful, or the images and feelings have an undue proportion of pain connected with them, there is some danger that the excitement may be carried beyond its proper bounds. Now the co-presence of something regular, something to which the mind has been accustomed in various moods and in a less excited state, cannot but have great efficacy in tempering and restraining the passion by an intertexture of ordinary feeling, and of feeling not strictly and necessarily connected with the passion. This is unquestionably true, and hence, though the opinion will at first appear paradoxical, from the tendency of metre to divest language in a certain degree of its reality, and thus to throw a sort of half consciousness of unsubstantial existence over the whole composition, there can be little doubt but that more pathetic situations and sentiments, that is, those which have a greater proportion of pain connected with them, may be endured in metrical composition, especially in rhyme, than in prose. The metre of the old ballads is very artless; yet they contain many passages which would illustrate this opinion, and, I hope, if the following Poems be attentively perused, similar instances will be found in them. This opinion may be further illustrated by appealing to the Reader’s own experience of the reluctance with which he comes to the re-perusal of the distressful parts of Clarissa Harlowe, or the Gamester. While Shakespeare’s writings, in the most pathetic scenes, never act upon us as pathetic beyond the bounds of pleasure—an effect which, in a much greater degree than might at first be imagined, is to be ascribed to small, but continual and regular impulses of pleasurable surprise from the metrical arrangement.—On the other hand (what it must be allowed will much more frequently happen) if the Poet’s words should be incommensurate with the passion, and inadequate to raise the Reader to a height of desirable excitement, then, (unless the Poet’s choice of his metre has been grossly injudicious) in the feelings of pleasure which the Reader has been accustomed to connect with metre in general, and in the feeling, whether cheerful or melancholy, which he has been accustomed to connect with that particular movement of metre, there will be found something which will greatly contribute to impart passion to the words, and to effect the complex end which the Poet proposes to himself.
If I had undertaken a systematic defence of the theory upon which these poems are written, it would have been my duty to develop the various causes upon which the pleasure received from metrical language depends. Among the chief of these causes is to be reckoned a principle which must be well known to those who have made any of the Arts the object of accurate reflection; I mean the pleasure which the mind derives from the perception of similitude in dissimilitude. This principle is the great spring of the activity of our minds, and their chief feeder. From this principle the direction of the sexual appetite, and all the passions connected with it, take their origin: it is the life of our ordinary conversation; and upon the accuracy with which similitude in dissimilitude, and dissimilitude in similitude are perceived, depend our taste and our moral feelings. It would not have been a useless employment to have applied this principle to the consideration of metre, and to have shown that metre is hence enabled to afford much pleasure, and to have pointed out in what manner that pleasure is produced. But my limits will not permit me to enter upon this subject, and I must content myself with a general summary.
I have said that Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till by a species of reaction the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion, of whatever kind and in whatever degree, from various causes is qualified by various pleasures, so that in describing any passions whatsoever, which are voluntarily described, the mind will upon the whole be in a state of enjoyment. Now, if Nature be thus cautious in preserving in a state of enjoyment a being thus employed, the Poet ought to profit by the lesson thus held forth to him, and ought especially to take care, that whatever passions he communicates to his Reader, those passions, if his Reader’s mind be sound and vigorous, should always be accompanied with an overbalance of pleasure. Now the music of harmonious metrical language, the sense of difficulty overcome, and the blind association of pleasure which has been previously received from works of rhyme or metre of the same or similar construction, an indistinct perception perpetually renewed of language closely resembling that of real life, and yet, in the circumstance of metre, differing from it so widely, all these imperceptibly make up a complex feeling of delight, which is of the most important use in tempering the painful feeling which will always be found intermingled with powerful descriptions of the deeper passions. This effect is always produced in pathetic and impassioned poetry; while, in lighter compositions, the ease and gracefulness with which the Poet manages his numbers are themselves confessedly a principal source of the gratification of the Reader. I might perhaps include all which it is necessary to say upon this subject by affirming, what few persons will deny, that of two descriptions, either of passions, manners, or characters, each of them equally well executed, the one in prose and the other in verse, the verse will be read a hundred times where the prose is read once. We see that Pope, by the power of verse alone, has contrived to render the plainest common sense interesting, and even frequently to invest it with the appearance of passion. In consequence of these convictions I related in metre the Tale of Goody Blake and Harry Gill, which is one of the rudest of this collection. I wished to draw attention to the truth, that the power of the human imagination is sufficient to produce such changes even in our physical nature as might almost appear miraculous. The truth is an important one; the fact (for it is a fact) is a valuable illustration of it. And I have the satisfaction of knowing that it has been communicated to many hundreds of people who would never have heard of it, had it not been narrated as a Ballad, and in a more impressive metre than is usual in Ballads.
Having thus explained a few of the reasons why I have written in verse, and why I have chosen subjects from common life, and endeavoured to bring my language near to the real language of men, if I have been too minute in pleading my own cause, I have at the same time been treating a subject of general interest; and it is for this reason that I request the Reader’s permission to add a few words with reference solely to these particular poems, and to some defects which will probably be found in them. I am sensible that my associations must have sometimes been particular instead of general, and that, consequently, giving to things a false importance, sometimes from diseased impulses I may have written upon unworthy subjects; but I am less apprehensive on this account, than that my language may frequently have suffered from those arbitrary connections of feelings and ideas with particular words and phrases, from which no man can altogether protect himself. Hence I have no doubt, that, in some instances, feelings even of the ludicrous may be given to my Readers by expressions which appeared to me tender and pathetic. Such faulty expressions, were I convinced they were faulty at present, and that they must necessarily continue to be so, I would willingly take all reasonable pains to correct. But it is dangerous to make these alterations on the simple authority of a few individuals, or even of certain classes of men; for where the understanding of an Author is not convinced, or his feelings altered, this cannot be done without great injury to himself: for his own feelings are his stay and support, and, if he sets them aside in one instance, he may be induced to repeat this act till his mind loses all confidence in itself, and becomes utterly debilitated. To this it may be added, that the Reader ought never to forget that he is himself exposed to the same errors as the Poet, and perhaps in a much greater degree: for there can be no presumption in saying, that it is not probable he will be so well acquainted with the various stages of meaning through which words have passed, or with the fickleness or stability of the relations of particular ideas to each other; and above all, since he is so much less interested in the subject, he may decide lightly and carelessly.
Long as I have detained my Reader, I hope he will permit me to caution him against a mode of false criticism which has been applied to Poetry in which the language closely resembles that of life and nature. Such verses have been triumphed over in parodies of which Dr. Johnson’s stanza is a fair specimen.
“I put my hat upon my head,
And walk’d into the Strand,
And there I met another man
Whose hat was in his hand.”
Immediately under these lines I will place one of the most justly admired stanzas of the “Babes in the Wood.”
“These pretty Babes with hand in hand
Went wandering up and down;
But never more they saw the Man
Approaching from the Town.”
In both of these stanzas the words, and the order of the words, in no respect differ from the most unimpassioned conversation. There are words in both, for example, “the Strand,” and “the Town,” connected with none but the most familiar ideas; yet the one stanza we admit as admirable, and the other as a fair example of the superlatively contemptible. Whence arises this difference? Not from the metre, not from the language, not from the order of the words; but the matter expressed in Dr. Johnson’s stanza is contemptible. The proper method of treating trivial and simple verses, to which Dr. Johnson’s stanza would be a fair parallelism, is not to say, This is a bad kind of poetry, or This is not poetry; but This wants sense; it is neither interesting in itself, nor can lead to anything interesting; the images neither originate in that sane state of feeling which arises out of thought, nor can excite thought or feeling in the Reader. This is the only sensible manner of dealing with such verses. Why trouble yourself about the species till you have previously decided upon the genus? Why take pains to prove that an ape is not a Newton when it is self-evident that he is not a man?
I have one request to make of my Reader, which is, that in judging these Poems he would decide by his own feelings genuinely, and not by reflection upon what will probably be the judgment of others. How common is it to hear a person say, “I myself do not object to this style of composition, or this or that expression, but to such and such classes of people it will appear mean or ludicrous.” This mode of criticism, so destructive of all sound unadulterated judgment, is almost universal: I have therefore to request, that the Reader would abide independently by his own feelings, and that if he finds himself affected he would not suffer such conjectures to interfere with his pleasure.
If an Author by any single composition has impressed us with respect for his talents, it is useful to consider this as affording a presumption, that, on other occasions where we have been displeased, he nevertheless may not have written ill or absurdly; and, further, to give him so much credit for this one composition as may induce us to review what has displeased us with more care than we should otherwise have bestowed upon it. This is not only an act of justice, but, in our decisions upon poetry especially, may conduce in a high degree to the improvement of our own taste: for an accurate taste in poetry, and in all the other arts, as Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by thought, and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition. This is mentioned, not with so ridiculous a purpose as to prevent the most inexperienced Reader from judging for himself, (I have already said that I wish him to judge for himself;) but merely to temper the rashness of decision, and to suggest, that, if Poetry be a subject on which much time has not been bestowed, the judgment may be erroneous; and that in many cases it necessarily will be so.
I know that nothing would have so effectually contributed to further the end which I have in view, as to have shown of what kind the pleasure is, and how the pleasure is produced, which is confessedly produced by metrical composition essentially different from that which I have here endeavoured to recommend: for the Reader will say that he has been pleased by such composition; and what can I do more for him? The power of any art is limited; and he will suspect, that, if I propose to furnish him with new friends, it is only upon condition of his abandoning his old friends. Besides, as I have said, the Reader is himself conscious of the pleasure which he has received from such composition, composition to which he has peculiarly attached the endearing name of Poetry; and all men feel an habitual gratitude, and something of an honorable bigotry for the objects which have long continued to please them; we not only wish to be pleased, but to be pleased in that particular way in which we have been accustomed to be pleased. There is a host of arguments in these feelings; and I should be the less able to combat them successfully, as I am willing to allow, that, in order entirely to enjoy the Poetry which I am recommending, it would be necessary to give up much of what is ordinarily enjoyed. But, would my limits have permitted me to point out how this pleasure is produced, I might have removed many obstacles, and assisted my Reader in perceiving that the powers of language are not so limited as he may suppose; and that it is possible that poetry may give other enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more exquisite nature. This part of my subject I have not altogether neglected; but it has been less my present aim to prove, that the interest excited by some other kinds of poetry is less vivid, and less worthy of the nobler powers of the mind, than to offer reasons for presuming, that, if the object which I have proposed to myself were adequately attained, a species of poetry would be produced, which is genuine poetry; in its nature well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and likewise important in the multiplicity and quality of its moral relations.
From what has been said, and from a perusal of the Poems, the Reader will be able clearly to perceive the object which I have proposed to myself: he will determine how far I have attained this object; and, what is a much more important question, whether it be worth attaining: and upon the decision of these two questions will rest my claim to the approbation of the public.
Expostulation and Reply
“Why, William, on that old gray stone,
“Thus for the length of half a day,
“Why, William, sit you thus alone,
“And dream your time away?
“Where are your books?—that light bequeath’d
“To beings else forlorn and blind!
“Up! up! and drink the spirit breath’d
“From dead men to their kind.
“You look round on your mother earth,
“As if she for no purpose bore you;
“As if you were her first-born birth,
“And none had lived before you!”
One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
When life was sweet, I knew not why,
To me my good friend Matthew spake,
And thus I made reply:
“The eye it cannot choose but see;
“We cannot bid the ear be still;
“Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
“Against, or with our will.
“Nor less I deem that there are powers
“Which of themselves our minds impress;
“That we can feed this mind of ours
“In a wise passiveness.
“Think you, mid all this mighty sum
“Of things for ever speaking,
“That nothing of itself will come,
“But we must still be seeking?
“—Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
“Conversing as I may,
“I sit upon this old gray stone,
“And dream my time away.”
The Tables Turned
An Evening Scene on the Same Subject
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books,
Or surely you’ll grow double.
The sun, above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland Linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life
There’s more of wisdom in it.
And hark! how blithe the Throstle sings!
And he is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.
She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Misshapes the beauteous forms of things;
—We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up these barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
Animal Tranquillity and Decay
The little hedge-row birds
That peck along the road, regard him not.
He travels on, and in his face, his step,
His gait, is one expression; every limb,
His look and bending figure, all bespeak
A man who does not move with pain, but moves
With thought.—He is insensibly subdued
To settled quiet: he is one by whom
All effort seems forgotten; one to whom
Long patience hath such mild composure given,
That patience now doth seem a thing of which
He hath no need. He is by nature led
To peace so perfect, that the young behold
With envy, what the Old Man hardly feels.
—I asked him whither he was bound, and what
The object of his journey: he replied
That he was going many miles to take
A last leave of his Son, a Mariner,
Who from a sea-fight had been brought to Falmouth,
And there was dying in an hospital.
Goody Blake and Harry Gill
A True Story
Oh! what’s the matter? what’s the matter?
What is’t that ails young Harry Gill?
That evermore his teeth they chatter,
Chatter, chatter, chatter still.
Of waistcoats Harry has no lack,
Good duffle gray, and flannel fine;
He has a blanket on his back,
And coats enough to smother nine.
In March, December, and in July,
’Tis all the same with Harry Gill;
The neighbours tell, and tell you truly,
His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
At night, at morning, and at noon,
’Tis all the same with Harry Gill;
Beneath the sun, beneath the moon,
His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
Young Harry was a lusty drover,
And who so stout of limb as he?
His cheeks were red as ruddy clover;
His voice was like the voice of three.
Old Goody Blake was old and poor;
Ill fed she was, and thinly clad;
And any man who pass’d her door
Might see how poor a hut she had.
All day she spun in her poor dwelling:
And then her three hours’ work at night!
Alas! ’twas hardly worth the telling,
It would not pay for candle-light.
—This woman dwelt in Dorsetshire,
Her hut was on a cold hill side,
And in that country coals are dear,
For they come far by wind and tide.
By the same fire to boil their pottage,
Two poor old Dames, as I have known,
Will often live in one small cottage;
But she, poor Woman! dwelt alone.
’Twas well enough when summer came,
The long, warm, lightsome summer-day,
Then at her door the canty Dame
Would sit, as any linnet gay.
But when the ice our streams did fetter,
Oh! then how her old bones would shake!
You would have said, if you had met her,
’Twas a hard time for Goody Blake.
Her evenings then were dull and dead;
Sad case it was, as you may think,
For very cold to go to bed;
And then for cold not sleep a wink.
Oh joy for her! whene’er in winter
The winds at night had made a rout,
And scatter’d many a lusty splinter
And many a rotten bough about.
Yet never had she, well or sick,
As every man who knew her says,
A pile before hand, wood or stick,
Enough to warm her for three days.
Now, when the frost was past enduring,
And made her poor old bones to ache,
Could any thing be more alluring
Than an old hedge to Goody Blake?
And, now and then, it must be said,
When her old bones were cold and chill,
She left her fire, or left her bed,
To seek the hedge of Harry Gill.
Now Harry he had long suspected
This trespass of old Goody Blake;
And vow’d that she should be detected,
And he on her would vengeance take.
And oft from his warm fire he’d go,
And to the fields his road would take;
And there, at night, in frost and snow,
He watch’d to seize old Goody Blake.
And once, behind a rick of barley,
Thus looking out did Harry stand:
The moon was full and shining clearly,
And crisp with frost the stubble land.
—He hears a noise—he’s all awake—
Again?—on tip-toe down the hill
He softly creeps—’Tis Goody Blake,
She’s at the hedge of Harry Gill.
Right glad was he when he beheld her:
Stick after stick did Goody pull:
He stood behind a bush of elder,
Till she had filled her apron full.
When with her load she turned about,
The bye-road back again to take,
He started forward with a shout,
And sprang upon poor Goody Blake.
And fiercely by the arm he took her,
And by the arm he held her fast,
And fiercely by the arm he shook her,
And cried, “I’ve caught you then at last!”
Then Goody, who had nothing said,
Her bundle from her lap let fall;
And, kneeling on the sticks, she pray’d
To God that is the judge of all.
She pray’d, her wither’d hand uprearing,
While Harry held her by the arm—
“God! who art never out of hearing,
O may he never more be warm!”
The cold, cold moon above her head,
Thus on her knees did Goody pray.
Young Harry heard what she had said,
And icy cold he turned away.
He went complaining all the morrow
That he was cold and very chill:
His face was gloom, his heart was sorrow,
Alas! that day for Harry Gill!
That day he wore a riding-coat,
But not a whit the warmer he:
Another was on Thursday brought,
And ere the Sabbath he had three.
’Twas all in vain, a useless matter,
And blankets were about him pinn’d;
Yet still his jaws and teeth they clatter,
Like a loose casement in the wind.
And Harry’s flesh it fell away;
And all who see him say, ’tis plain,
That live as long as live he may,
He never will be warm again.
No word to any man he utters,
A-bed or up, to young or old;
But ever to himself he mutters,
“Poor Harry Gill is very cold.”
A-bed or up, by night or day;
His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
Now think, ye farmers all, I pray,
Of Goody Blake and Harry Gill.
The Last of the Flock
In distant countries I have been,
And yet I have not often seen
A healthy Man, a Man full grown,
Weep in the public roads alone.
But such a one, on English ground,
And in the broad high-way, I met;
Along the broad high-way he came,
His cheeks with tears were wet.
Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;
And in his arms a Lamb he had.
He saw me, and he turned aside,
As if he wished himself to hide:
Then with his coat he made essay
To wipe those briny tears away.
I followed him, and said, “My Friend,
What ails you? wherefore weep you so?”
—“Shame on me, Sir! this lusty Lamb,
He makes my tears to flow.
Today I fetched him from the rock;
He is the last of all my flock.
When I was young, a single Man,
And after youthful follies ran,
Though little given to care and thought,
Yet, so it was, a Ewe I bought;
And other sheep from her I raised,
As healthy sheep as you might see;
And then I married, and was rich
As I could wish to be;
Of sheep I numbered a full score,
And every year increased my store.
Year after year my stock it grew,
And from this one, this single Ewe,
Full fifty comely sheep I raised,
As sweet a flock as ever grazed!
Upon the mountain did they feed,
They throve, and we at home did thrive.
—This lusty Lamb of all my store
Is all that is alive;
And now I care not if we die,
And perish all of poverty.
Six Children, Sir! had I to feed,
Hard labour in a time of need!
My pride was tamed, and in our grief
I of the Parish ask’d relief.
They said I was a wealthy man;
My sheep upon the mountain fed,
And it was fit that thence I took
Whereof to buy us bread.
‘Do this: how can we give to you,’
They cried, ‘what to the poor is due?’
I sold a sheep, as they had said,
And bought my little children bread,
And they were healthy with their food;
For me—it never did me good.
A woeful time it was for me,
To see the end of all my gains,
The pretty flock which I had reared
With all my care and pains,
To see it melt like snow away!
For me it was woeful day.
Another still! and still another!
A little lamb, and then its mother!
It was a vein that never stopp’d—
Like blood-drops from my heart they dropp’d.
Till thirty were not left alive
They dwindled, dwindled, one by one,
And I may say, that many a time
I wished they all were gone:
They dwindled one by one away;
For me it was a woeful day.
To wicked deeds I was inclined,
And wicked fancies cross’d my mind;
And every man I chanced to see,
I thought he knew some ill of me.
No peace, no comfort could I find,
No ease, within doors or without,
And crazily, and wearily,
I went my work about.
Oft-times I thought to run away;
For me it was a woeful day.
Sir! ’twas a precious flock to me,
As dear as my own Children be;
For daily with my growing store
I loved my Children more and more.
Alas! it was an evil time;
God cursed me in my sore distress;
I prayed, yet every day I thought
I loved my Children less;
And every week, and every day,
My flock, it seemed to melt away.
They dwindled, Sir, sad sight to see!
From ten to five, from five to three,
A lamb, a wether, and a ewe;—
And then, at last, from three to two;
And of my fifty, yesterday
I had but only one:
And here it lies upon my arm,
Alas! and I have none;—
Today I fetched it from the rock;
It is the last of all my flock.”
Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree, Which Stands Near the Lake of Estwaithe, on a Desolate Part of the Shore, Yet Commanding a Beautiful Prospect
Nay, Traveller! rest. This lonely Yew-tree stands
Far from all human dwelling: what if here
No sparkling rivulet spread the verdant herb?
What if these barren boughs the bee not loves?
Yet, if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves,
That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind
By one soft impulse saved from vacancy.
⸻Who he was
That piled these stones, and with the mossy sod
First covered o’er, and taught this aged Tree
With its dark arms to form a circling bower,
I well remember.—He was one who owned
No common soul. In youth by science nursed,
And led by nature into a wild scene
Of lofty hopes, he to the world went forth
A favoured being, knowing no desire
Which genius did not hallow, ’gainst the taint
Of dissolute tongues, and jealousy, and hate,
And scorn, against all enemies prepared,
All but neglect. The world, for so it thought,
Owed him no service: wherefore he at once
With indignation turned himself away,
And with the food of pride sustained his soul
In solitude.—Stranger! these gloomy boughs
Had charms for him; and here he loved to sit,
His only visitants a straggling sheep,
The stone-chat, or the glancing sand-piper;
And on these barren rocks, with juniper,
And heath, and thistle, thinly sprinkled o’er,
Fixing his down-cast eye, he many an hour
A morbid pleasure nourished, tracing here
An emblem of his own unfruitful life:
And lifting up his head, he then would gaze
On the more distant scene—how lovely ’tis
Thou seest—and he would gaze till it became
Far lovelier, and his heart could not sustain
The beauty still more beauteous. Nor, that time,
When Nature had subdued him to herself,
Would he forget those beings, to whose minds,
Warm from the labours of benevolence,
The world, and man himself, appeared a scene
Of kindred loveliness: then he would sigh
With mournful joy, to think that others felt
What he must never feel: and so, lost Man!
On visionary views would fancy feed,
Till his eye streamed with tears. In this deep vale
He died—this seat his only monument.
If Thou be one whose heart the holy forms
Of young imagination have kept pure,
Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know, that pride,
Howe’er disguised in its own majesty,
Is littleness; that he who feels contempt
For any living thing hath faculties
Which he has never used; that thought with him
Is in its infancy. The man whose eye
Is ever on himself doth look on one,
The least of Nature’s works, one who might move
The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds
Unlawful, ever. O be wiser, Thou!
Instructed that true knowledge leads to love,
True dignity abides with him alone
Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
Can still suspect, and still revere himself,
In lowliness of heart.
The Foster-Mother’s Tale
A Narration in Dramatic Blank Verse
But that entrance, Mother!
Can no one hear? It is a perilous tale!
My husband’s father told it me,
Poor old Leoni!—Angels rest his soul!
He was a woodman, and could fell and saw
With lusty arm. You know that huge round beam
Which props the hanging wall of the old chapel;
Beneath that tree, while yet it was a tree,
He found a baby wrapt in mosses lined
With thistle-beards, and such small locks of wool
As hang on brambles. Well, he brought him home,
And reared him at the then Lord Velez’ cost.
And so the babe grew up a pretty boy,
A pretty boy, but most unteachable—
And never learnt a prayer, nor told a bead,
But knew the names of birds, and mocked their notes,
And whistled, as he were a bird himself:
And all the autumn ’twas\ his only play
To gather seeds of wild flowers, and to plant them
With earth and water on the stumps of trees.
A Friar, who sought for simples in the wood,
A gray-haired man—he loved this little boy,
The boy loved him—and, when the Friar taught him,
He soon could write with the pen; and from that time
Lived chiefly at the Convent or the Castle.
So he became a very learned youth.
But, Oh! poor wretch—he read, and read, and read,
Till his brain turned—and ere his twentieth year
He had unlawful thoughts of many things:
And though he prayed, he never loved to pray
With holy men, nor in a holy place—
But yet his speech, it was so soft and sweet,
The late Lord Velez ne’er was wearied with him.
And once, as by the north side of the Chapel
They stood together, chained in deep discourse,
The earth heaved under them with such a groan,
That the wall tottered, and had well-nigh fallen
Right on their heads. My Lord was sorely frightened;
A fever seized him, and he made confession
Of all the heretical and lawless talk
Which brought this judgment: so the youth was seized
And cast into that cell. My husband’s father
Sobbed like a child—it almost broke his heart:
And once as he was working near the cell
He heard a voice distinctly; ’twas the youth’s,
Who sang a doleful song about green fields,
How sweet it were on lake or wild savannah,
To hunt for food, and be a naked man,
And wander up and down at liberty.
Leoni doted on the youth, and now
His love grew desperate; and defying death,
He made that cunning entrance I described:
And the young man escaped.
Tis a sweet tale.
And what became of him?
He went on ship-board,
With those bold voyagers who made discovery
Of golden lands. Leoni’s younger brother
Went likewise; and when he returned to Spain,
He told Leoni, that the poor mad youth,
Soon after they arrived in that new world,
In spite of his dissuasion, seized a boat,
And, all alone, set sail by silent moonlight
Up a great river, great as any sea,
And ne’er was heard of more: but ’tis supposed,
He lived and died among the savage men.
There is a Thorn—it looks so old,
In truth, you’d find it hard to say
How it could ever have been young—
It looks so old and gray.
Not higher than a two years’ child
It stands erect, this aged Thorn;
No leaves it has, no thorny points;
It is a mass of knotted joints,
A wretched thing forlorn.
It stands erect, and like a stone
With lichens it is overgrown.
Like rock or stone, it is o’ergrown
With lichens to the very top,
And hung with heavy tufts of moss,
A melancholy crop:
Up from the earth these mosses creep,
And this poor Thorn they clasp it round
So close, you’d say that they were bent
With plain and manifest intent
To drag it to the ground;
And all had joined in one endeavour
To bury this poor Thorn for ever.
High on a mountain’s highest ridge,
Where oft the stormy winter gale
Cuts like a scythe, while through the clouds
It sweeps from vale to vale;
Not five yards from the mountain path,
This Thorn you on your left espy;
And to the left, three yards beyond,
You see a little muddy Pond
Of water never dry;
I’ve measured it from side to side:
’Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.
And, close beside this aged Thorn,
There is a fresh and lovely sight,
A beauteous heap, a Hill of moss,
Just half a foot in height.
All lovely colours there you see,
All colours that were ever seen;
And mossy net-work too is there,
As if by hand of lady fair
The work had woven been;
And cups, the darlings of the eye,
So deep is their vermilion dye.
Ah me! what lovely tints are there!
Of olive green and scarlet bright,
In spikes, in branches, and in stars,
Green, red, and pearly white.
This heap of earth o’ergrown with moss,
Which close beside the Thorn you see,
So fresh in all its beauteous dyes,
Is like an infant’s grave in size,
As like as like can be:
But never, never any where,
An infant’s grave was half so fair.
Now would you see this aged Thorn,
This Pond, and beauteous Hill of moss,
You must take care and choose your time
The mountain when to cross.
For oft there sits, between the Heap
That’s like an infant’s grave in size,
And that same Pond of which I spoke,
A Woman in a scarlet cloak,
And to herself she cries,
“Oh misery! oh misery!
Oh woe is me! oh misery!”
At all times of the day and night
This wretched Woman thither goes;
And she is known to every star,
And every wind that blows;
And there beside the Thorn she sits
When the blue day-light’s in the skies,
And when the whirlwind’s on the hill,
Or frosty air is keen and still,
And to herself she cries,
“Oh misery! oh misery!
Oh woe is me! oh misery!”
“Now wherefore, thus, by day and night,
In rain, in tempest, and in snow,
Thus to the dreary mountain-top
Does this poor Woman go?
And why sits she beside the Thorn
When the blue day-light’s in the sky,
Or when the whirlwind’s on the hill,
Or frosty air is keen and still,
And wherefore does she cry?—
Oh wherefore? wherefore? tell me why
Does she repeat that doleful cry?”
I cannot tell; I wish I could;
For the true reason no one knows:
But if you’d gladly view the spot,
The spot to which she goes;
The Heap that’s like an infant’s grave,
The Pond—and Thorn, so old and gray;
Pass by her door—’tis seldom shut—
And, if you see her in her hut,
Then to the spot away!—
I never heard of such as dare
Approach the spot when she is there.
“But wherefore to the mountain-top
Can this unhappy Woman go,
Whatever star is in the skies,
Whatever wind may blow?”
Nay, rack your brain—’tis all in vain,
I’ll tell you every thing I know;
But to the Thorn, and to the Pond
Which is a little step beyond,
I wish that you would go:
Perhaps, when you are at the place,
You something of her tale may trace.
I’ll give you the best help I can:
Before you up the mountain go,
Up to the dreary mountain-top,
I’ll tell you all I know.
’Tis now some two-and-twenty years
Since she (her name is Martha Ray)
Gave with a maiden’s true good will
Her company to Stephen Hill;
And she was blithe and gay,
And she was happy, happy still
Whene’er she thought of Stephen Hill.
And they had fix’d the wedding-day,
The morning that must wed them both;
But Stephen to another Maid
Had sworn another oath;
And with this other Maid to church
Unthinking Stephen went—
Poor Martha! on that woeful day
A cruel, cruel fire, they say,
Into her bones was sent:
It dried her body like a cinder,
And almost turned her brain to tinder.
They say, full six months after this,
While yet the summer leaves were green,
She to the mountain-top would go,
And there was often seen.
’Tis said, a child was in her womb,
As now to any eye was plain;
She was with child, and she was mad;
Yet often she was sober sad
From her exceeding pain.
Oh me! ten thousand times I’d rather
That he had died, that cruel father!
Sad case for such a brain to hold
Communion with a stirring child!
Sad case, as you may think, for one
Who had a brain so wild!
Last Christmas when we talked of this,
Old Farmer Simpson did maintain,
That in her womb the infant wrought
About its mother’s heart, and brought
Her senses back again:
And when at last her time drew near,
Her looks were calm, her senses clear.
No more I know, I wish I did,
And I would tell it all to you;
For what became of this poor child
There’s none that ever knew:
And if a child was born or no,
There’s no one that could ever tell;
And if ’twas born alive or dead,
There’s no one knows, as I have said;
But some remember well,
That Martha Ray about this time
Would up the mountain often climb.
And all that winter, when at night
The wind blew from the mountain-peak,
’Twas worth your while, though in the dark,
The church-yard path to seek:
For many a time and oft were heard
Cries coming from the mountain-head:
Some plainly living voices were;
And others, I’ve heard many swear,
Were voices of the dead:
I cannot think, whate’er they say,
They had to do with Martha Ray.
But that she goes to this old Thorn,
The Thorn which I’ve described to you,
And there sits in a scarlet cloak,
I will be sworn is true.
For one day with my telescope,
To view the ocean wide and bright,
When to this country first I came,
Ere I had heard of Martha’s name,
I climbed the mountain’s height:
A storm came on, and I could see
No object higher than my knee.
’Twas mist and rain, and storm and rain,
No screen, no fence could I discover,
And then the wind! in faith, it was
A wind full ten times over.
I looked around, I thought I saw
A jutting crag, and off I ran,
Head-foremost, through the driving rain,
The shelter of the crag to gain,
And, as I am a man,
Instead of jutting crag, I found
A Woman seated on the ground.
I did not speak—I saw her face,
In truth it was enough for me;
I turned about and heard her cry,
“O misery! O misery!”
And there she sits, until the moon
Through half the clear blue sky will go;
And, when the little breezes make
The waters of the Pond to shake,
As all the country know,
She shudders, and you hear her cry,
“Oh misery! oh misery!”
“But what’s the Thorn? and what’s the Pond?
And what’s the Hill of moss to her?
And what’s the creeping breeze that comes
The little Pond to stir?”
I cannot tell; but some will say
She hanged her baby on the tree;
Some say she drowned it in the pond,
Which is a little step beyond:
But all and each agree,
The little babe was buried there,
Beneath that Hill of moss so fair.
I’ve heard, the moss is spotted red
With drops of that poor infant’s blood:
But kill a new-born infant thus
I do not think she could.
Some say, if to the Pond you go,
And fix on it a steady view,
The shadow of a babe you trace,
A baby and a baby’s face,
And that it looks at you;
Whene’er you look on it, ’tis plain
The baby looks at you again.
And some had sworn an oath that she
Should be to public justice brought;
And for the little infant’s bones
With spades they would have sought.
But then the beauteous Hill of moss
Before their eyes began to stir;
And for full fifty yards around,
The grass it shook upon the ground;
But all do still aver
The little babe is buried there,
Beneath that Hill of moss so fair.
I cannot tell how this may be:
But plain it is, the Thorn is bound
With heavy tufts of moss, that strive
To drag it to the ground.
And this I know, full many a time,
When she was on the mountain high,
By day, and in the silent night,
When all the stars shone clear and bright,
That I have heard her cry,
“Oh misery! oh misery!
Oh woe is me! oh misery!”
We Are Seven
A simple child, dear brother Jim,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?
I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.
She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad;
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.
“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.
“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And in the church-yard cottage I
Dwell near them with my mother.”
“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet you are seven; I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be?”
Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”
“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”
“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from mother’s door,
And they are side by side.
My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit—
I sit and sing to them.
And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.
The first that died was little Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.
So in the church-yard she was laid;
And all the summer dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.
And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”
“How many are you then,” said I,
“If they two are in Heaven?”
The little Maiden did reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”
“But they are dead: those two are dead!
Their spirits are in Heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away: for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”
Anecdote for Fathers
Showing How the Practice of Lying May Be Taught
I have a Boy of five years old;
His face is fair and fresh to see;
His limbs are cast in beauty’s mould,
And dearly he loves me.
One morn we stroll’d on our dry walk,
Our quiet home all full in view,
And held such intermitted talk
As we are wont to do.
My thoughts on former pleasures ran:
I thought of Kilve’s delightful shore,
Our pleasant home, when Spring began,
A long, long year before.
A day it was when I could bear
To think, and think, and think again;
With so much happiness to spare,
I could not feel a pain.
My Boy was by my side, so slim
And graceful in his rustic dress!
And oftentimes I talked to him,
In very idleness.
The young lambs ran a pretty race;
The morning sun shone bright and warm;
“Kilve,” said I, “was a pleasant place;
And so is Liswyn farm.
My little Boy, which like you more,”
I said, and took him by the arm—
“Our home by Kilve’s delightful shore,
Or here at Liswyn farm?
And tell me, had you rather be,”
I said, and held him by the arm,
“At Kilve’s smooth shore by the green sea,
Or here at Liswyn farm?”
In careless mood he looked at me,
While still I held him by the arm,
And said, “At Kilve I’d rather be
Than here at Liswyn farm.”
“Now, little Edward, say why so;
My little Edward, tell me why.”—
“I cannot tell, I do not know.”—
“Why, this is strange,” said I.
“For, here are woods, and green-hills warm:
There surely must some reason be
Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm
For Kilve by the green sea.”
At this, my Boy hung down his head,
He blush’d with shame, nor made reply;
And five times to the Child I said,
“Why, Edward, tell me why?”
His head he raised—there was in sight,
It caught his eye, he saw it plain—
Upon the house-top, glittering bright,
A broad and gilded vane.
Then did the boy his tongue unlock;
And thus to me he made reply;
“At Kilve there was no weather-cock,
And that’s the reason why.”
Oh dearest, dearest Boy! my heart
For better lore would seldom yearn,
Could I but teach the hundredth part
Of what from thee I learn.
Lines Written at a Small Distance from My House, and Sent by My Little Boy to the Person to Whom They Are Addressed
It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before,
The Red-breast sings from the tall Larch
That stands beside our door.
There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
And grass in the green field.
My Sister! (’tis a wish of mine)
Now that our morning meal is done,
Make haste, your morning task resign;
Come forth and feel the sun.
Edward will come with you; and pray,
Put on with speed your woodland dress
And bring no book: for this one day
We’ll give to idleness.
No joyless forms shall regulate
Our living Calendar:
We from today, my Friend, will date
The opening of the year.
Love, now an universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing,
From earth to man, from man to earth:
—It is the hour of feeling.
One moment now may give us more
Than fifty years of reason:
Our minds shall drink at every pore
The spirit of the season.
Some silent laws our hearts may make,
Which they shall long obey:
We for the year to come may take
Our temper from to-day.
And from the blessed power that rolls
About, below, above,
We’ll frame the measure of our souls:
They shall be tuned to love.
Then come, my Sister! come, I pray,
With speed put on your woodland dress;
—And bring no book: for this one day
We’ll give to idleness.
The Female Vagrant
My Father was a good and pious man,
An honest man by honest parents bred;
And I believe, that, soon as I began
To lisp, he made me kneel beside my bed,
And in his hearing there my prayers I said:
And afterwards, by my good Father taught,
I read, and loved the books in which I read;
For books in every neighbouring house I sought,
And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought.
The suns of twenty summers danced along—
Ah! little marked how fast they rolled away:
Then rose a stately Hall our woods among,
And cottage after cottage owned its sway.
No joy to see a neighbouring House, or stray
Through pastures not his own, the master took;
My Father dared his greedy wish gainsay;
He loved his old hereditary nook,
And ill could I the thought of such sad parting brook.
But, when he had refused the proffered gold,
To cruel injuries he became a prey,
Sore traversed in whate’er he bought and sold:
His troubles grew upon him day by day,
And all his substance fell into decay.
They dealt most hardly with him, and he tried
To move their hearts—but it was vain—for they
Seized all he had; and, weeping side by side,
We sought a home where we uninjured might abide.
It was in truth a lamentable hour,
When, from the last hill-top, my Sire surveyed,
Peering above the trees, the steeple tower
That on his marriage-day sweet music made.
Till then he hoped his bones might there be laid,
Close by my Mother, in their native bowers;
Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed—
I could not pray:—through tears that fell in showers
I saw our own dear home, that was no longer ours.
There was a Youth, whom I had loved so long,
That when I loved him not I cannot say.
’Mid the green mountains many and many a song
We two had sung, like gladsome birds in May.
When we began to tire of childish play
We seemed still more and more to prize each other;
We talked of marriage and our marriage day;
And I in truth did love him like a brother;
For never could I hope to meet with such another.
Two years were pass’d, since to a distant Town
He had repair’d to ply the artist’s trade.
What tears of bitter grief till then unknown!
What tender vows our last sad kiss delayed!
To him we turned:—we had no other aid.
Like one revived, upon his neck I wept:
And her whom he had loved in joy, he said
He well could love in grief: his faith he kept;
And in a quiet home once more my Father slept.
We lived in peace and comfort; and were blest
With daily bread, by constant toil supplied.
Three lovely Infants lay upon my breast;
And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed,
And knew not why. My happy Father died
When sad distress reduced the Children’s meal:
Thrice happy! that from him the grave did hide
The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel,
And tears that flowed for ills which patience could not heal.
’Twas a hard change, an evil time was come;
We had no hope, and no relief could gain.
But soon, day after day, the noisy drum
Beat round, to sweep the streets of want and pain.
My husband’s arms now only served to strain
Me and his children hungering in his view:
In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain:
To join those miserable men he flew:
And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we drew.
There, long were we neglected, and we bore
Much sorrow ere the fleet its anchor weigh’d;
Green fields before us and our native shore,
We breath’d a pestilential air that made
Ravage for which no knell was heard. We pray’d
For our departure; wish’d and wish’d—nor knew
’Mid that long sickness, and those hopes delay’d,
That happier days we never more must view:
The parting signal streamed, at last the land withdrew.
But the calm summer season now was past.
On as we drove, the equinoctial Deep
Ran mountains-high before the howling blast;
And many perished in the whirlwind’s sweep.
We gazed with terror on their gloomy sleep,
Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue,
Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap,
That we the mercy of the waves should rue.
We reach’d the Western World, a poor, devoted crew.
The pains and plagues that on our heads came down,
Disease and famine, agony and fear,
In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
It would thy brain unsettle, even to hear.
All perished—all, in one remorseless year,
Husband and Children! one by one, by sword
And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear
Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored.
Peaceful as some immeasurable plain
By the first beams of dawning light impress’d,
In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main.
The very ocean has its hour of rest.
I too was calm, though heavily distress’d!
Oh me, how quiet sky and ocean were!
My heart was healed within me, I was bless’d,
And looked, and looked along the silent air,
Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.
Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps!
And groans, that rage of racking famine spoke!
The unburied dead that lay in festering heaps!
The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke!
The shriek that from the distant battle broke!
The mine’s dire earthquake, and the pallid host
Driven by the bomb’s incessant thunder-stroke
To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish toss’d,
Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!
At midnight once the storming Army came,
Yet do I see the miserable sight,
The Bayonet, the Soldier, and the Flame
That followed us and faced us in our flight;
When Rape and Murder by the ghastly light
Seized their joint prey, the Mother and the Child!
But I must leave these thoughts.—From night to night,
From day to day, the air breathed soft and mild:
And on the gliding vessel Heaven and Ocean smiled.
Some mighty gulph of separation past,
I seemed transported to another world:—
A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast
The impatient mariner the sail unfurl’d,
And, whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home
And from all hope I was forever hurled.
For me—farthest from earthly port to roam
Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.
And oft I thought (my fancy was so strong)
That I at last a resting-place had found;
“Here will I dwell,” said I, “my whole life-long,
Roaming the illimitable waters round:
Here will I live:—of every friend disown’d,
Here will I roam about the ocean-flood.”—
To break my dream the vessel reached its bound:
And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
And near a thousand tables pin’d, and wanted food.
By grief enfeebled was I turned adrift,
Helpless as sailor cast on desert rock;
Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift,
Nor dared my hand at any door to knock.
I lay where, with his drowsy Mates, the Cock
From the cross timber of an out-house hung;
Dismally tolled, that night, the city clock!
At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung,
Nor to the beggar’s language could I frame my tongue.
So pass’d another day, and so the third;
Then did I try in vain the crowd’s resort.
—In deep despair by frightful wishes stirr’d,
Near the sea-side I reached a ruined Fort:
There, pains which nature could no more support,
With blindness link’d, did on my vitals fall,
And I had many interruptions short
Of hideous sense; I sank, nor step could crawl,
And thence was carried to a neighbouring Hospital.
Recovery came with food: but still, my brain
Was weak, nor of the past had memory.
I heard my neighbours, in their beds, complain
Of many things which never troubled me;
Of feet still bustling round with busy glee;
Of looks where common kindness had no part;
Of service done with careless cruelty,
Fretting the fever round the languid heart;
And groans, which, as they said, would make a dead man start.
These things just served to stir the torpid sense,
Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised.
My memory and my strength returned; and thence
Dismissed, again on open day I gazed,
At houses, men, and common light, amazed.
The lanes I sought, and, as the sun retired,
Came where beneath the trees a faggot blazed;
The Travellers saw me weep, my fate inquired,
And gave me food—and rest, more welcome, more desired.
My heart is touched to think that men like these,
Wild houseless Wanderers, were my first relief:
How kindly did they paint their vagrant ease,
And their long holiday that feared not grief!
For all belonged to all, and each was chief.
No plough their sinews strained; on grating road
No wain they drove; and yet the yellow sheaf
In every vale for their delight was stow’d;
In every field, with milk their dairy overflow’d.
They with their pannier’d Asses semblance made
Of Potters wandering on from door to door:
But life of happier sort to me pourtray’d,
And other joys my fancy to allure;
The bag-pipe dinning on the midnight moor
In barn uplighted, and Companions boon
Well met from far with revelry secure,
Among the forest glades, when jocund June
Rolled fast along the sky his warm and genial moon.
But ill they suited me; those journeys dark
O’er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch!
To charm the surly House-dog’s faithful bark,
Or hang on tip-toe at the lifted latch;
The gloomy lantern, and the dim blue match,
The black disguise, the warning whistle shrill,
And ear still busy on its nightly watch,
Were not for me, brought up in nothing ill:
Besides, on griefs so fresh my thoughts were brooding still.
What could I do, unaided and unblest?
My Father! gone was every friend of thine:
And kindred of dead husband are at best
Small help; and, after marriage such as mine,
With little kindness would to me incline.
Ill was I then for toil or service fit:
With tears whose course no effort could confine,
By the road-side forgetful would I sit
Whole hours, my idle arms in moping sorrow knit.
I led a wandering life among the fields;
Contentedly, yet sometimes self-accused,
I lived upon what casual bounty yields,
Now coldly given, now utterly refused.
The ground I for my bed have often used:
But, what afflicts my peace with keenest ruth
Is, that I have my inner self abused,
Forgone the home delight of constant truth,
And clear and open soul, so prized in fearless youth.
Three years thus wandering, often have I view’d,
In tears, the sun towards that country tend
Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude:
And now across this moor my steps I bend—
Oh! tell me whither—for no earthly friend
Have I.—She ceased, and weeping turned away,
As if because her tale was at an end
She wept;—because she had no more to say
Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay.
Lines Written in Early Spring
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it griev’d my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopp’d and play’d:
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If I these thoughts may not prevent,
If such be of my creed the plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
Simon Lee, the Old Huntsman
With an Incident in Which He Was Concerned
In the sweet shire of Cardigan,
Not far from pleasant Ivor-hall,
An Old Man dwells, a little man,
I’ve heard he once was tall.
Of years he has upon his back,
No doubt, a burthen weighty;
He says he is three score and ten,
But others say he’s eighty.
A long blue livery-coat has he,
That’s fair behind, and fair before;
Yet, meet him where you will, you see
At once that he is poor.
Full five-and-twenty years he lived
A running Huntsman merry;
And, though he has but one eye left,
His cheek is like a cherry.
No man like him the horn could sound,
And no man was so full of glee;
To say the least, four counties round
Had heard of Simon Lee;
His Master’s dead, and no one now
Dwells in the hall of Ivor;
Men, Dogs, and Horses, all are dead;
He is the sole survivor.
And he is lean and he is sick,
His dwindled body’s half awry;
His ancles they are swoln and thick;
His legs are thin and dry.
When he was young he little knew
Of husbandry or tillage;
And now he’s forced to work, though weak,
—The weakest in the village.
He all the country could outrun,
Could leave both man and horse behind;
And often, ere the race was done,
He reeled and was stone-blind.
And still there’s something in the world
At which his heart rejoices;
For when the chiming hounds are out,
He dearly loves their voices!
His hunting feats have him bereft
Of his right eye, as you may see:
And then, what limbs those feats have left
To poor old Simon Lee!
He has no son, he has no child,
His Wife, an aged woman,
Lives with him, near the waterfall,
Upon the village Common.
Old Ruth works out of doors with him,
And does what Simon cannot do;
For she, not over stout of limb,
Is stouter of the two.
And, though you with your utmost skill
From labour could not wean them,
Alas! ’tis very little, all
Which they can do between them.
Beside their moss-grown hut of clay,
Not twenty paces from the door,
A scrap of land they have, but they
Are poorest of the poor.
This scrap of land he from the heath
Enclosed when he was stronger;
But what avails the land to them,
Which they can till no longer?
Few months of life has he in store,
As he to you will tell,
For still, the more he works, the more
His poor old ancles swell.
My gentle Reader, I perceive
How patiently you’ve waited,
And I’m afraid that you expect
Some tale will be related.
O Reader! had you in your mind
Such stores as silent thought can bring,
O gentle Reader! you would find
A tale in every thing.
What more I have to say is short,
I hope you’ll kindly take it:
It is no tale; but, should you think,
Perhaps a tale you’ll make it.
One summer-day I chanced to see
This Old Man doing all he could
About the root of an old tree,
A stump of rotten wood.
The mattock tottered in his hand;
So vain was his endeavour
That at the root of the old tree
He might have worked for ever.
“You’re overtasked, good Simon Lee,
Give me your tool,” to him I said;
And at the word right gladly he
Received my proffered aid.
I struck, and with a single blow
The tangled root I severed,
At which the poor Old Man so long
And vainly had endeavoured.
The tears into his eyes were brought,
And thanks and praises seemed to run
So fast out of his heart, I thought
They never would have done.
—I’ve heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning.
Alas! the gratitude of men
Has oftener left me mourning.
Written in April, 1798
No cloud, no relique of the sunken day
Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
Of sullen Light, no obscure trembling hues.
Come, we will rest on this old mossy Bridge!
You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
But hear no murmuring: it flows silently
O’er its soft bed of verdure. All is still,
A balmy night! and though the stars be dim,
Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
And hark! the Nightingale begins its song,
“Most musical, most melancholy”4 Bird!
A melancholy Bird? O idle thought!
In nature there is nothing melancholy.
—But some night-wandering Man, whose heart was pierced
With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,
Or slow distemper, or neglected love,
(And so, poor wretch! filled all things with himself,
And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale
Of his own sorrows) he and such as he
First named these notes a melancholy strain:
And many a poet echoes the conceit;
Poet, who hath been building up the rhyme
When he had better far have stretched his limbs
Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell
By sun- or moon-light, to the influxes
Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements
Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song
And of his fame forgetful! so his fame
Should share in nature’s immortality,
A venerable thing! and so his song
Should make all nature lovelier, and itself
Be loved, like nature!—But ’twill not be so;
And youths and maidens most poetical
Who lose the deep’ning twilights of the spring
In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still
Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs
O’er Philomela’s pity-pleading strains.
My Friend, and my Friend’s Sister! we have learnt
A different lore: we may not thus profane
Nature’s sweet voices always full of love
And joyance! ’Tis the merry Nightingale
That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates
With fast thick warble his delicious notes,
As he were fearful that an April night
Would be too short for him to utter forth
His love-chant, and disburthen his full soul
Of all its music! And I know a grove
Of large extent, hard by a castle huge
Which the great lord inhabits not: and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,
Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.
But never elsewhere in one place I knew
So many Nightingales: and far and near
In wood and thicket over the wide grove
They answer and provoke each other’s songs—
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug
And one low piping sound more sweet than all—
Stirring the air with such an harmony,
That, should you close your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day.
A most gentle Maid
Who dwelleth in her hospitable home
Hard by the Castle, and at latest eve
(Even like a Lady vowed and dedicate
To something more than nature in the grove)
Glides through the pathways; she knows all their notes,
That gentle Maid! and oft, a moment’s space,
What time the moon was lost behind a cloud,
Hath heard a pause of silence: till the Moon
Emerging, hath awakened earth and sky
With one sensation, and those wakeful Birds
Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy,
As if one quick and sudden Gale had swept
An hundred airy harps! And she hath watched
Many a Nightingale perch giddily
On blosmy twig still swinging from the breeze,
And to that motion tune his wanton song,
Like tipsy Joy that reels with tossing head.
Farewell, O Warbler! till to-morrow eve,
And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!
We have been loitering long and pleasantly,
And now for our dear homes.—That strain again!
Full fain would it delay me! My dear Babe,
Who, capable of no articulate sound,
Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
How he would place his hand beside his ear,
His little hand, the small forefinger up,
And bid us listen! And I deem it wise
To make him Nature’s playmate. He knows well
The evening star: and once when he awoke
In most distressful mood (some inward pain
Had made up that strange thing, an infant’s dream)
I hurried with him to our orchard plot,
And he beholds the moon, and hushed at once
Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently,
While his fair eyes that swam with undropt tears
Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam! Well—
It is a father’s tale. But if that Heaven
Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up
Familiar with these songs, that with the night
He may associate Joy! Once more farewell,
Sweet Nightingale! once more, my friends! farewell.
The Idiot Boy
’Tis eight o’clock—a clear March night,
The Moon is up—the Sky is blue,
The Owlet in the moonlight air,
He shouts from nobody knows where;
He lengthens out his lonely shout,
Halloo! halloo! a long halloo!
—Why bustle thus about your door,
What means this bustle, Betty Foy?
Why are you in this mighty fret?
And why on horseback have you set
Him whom you love, your Idiot Boy?
Beneath the Moon that shines so bright,
Till she is tired, let Betty Foy
With girt and stirrup fiddle-faddle;
But wherefore set upon a saddle
Him whom she loves, her Idiot Boy?
There’s scarce a soul that’s out of bed;
Good Betty, put him down again;
His lips with joy they burr at you;
But, Betty! what has he to do
With stirrup, saddle, or with rein?
The world will say ’tis very idle,
Bethink you of the time of night;
There’s not a mother, no not one,
But when she hears what you have done,
O Betty, she’ll be in a fright.
But Betty’s bent on her intent;
For her good neighbour, Susan Gale,
Old Susan, she who dwells alone,
Is sick, and makes a piteous moan,
As if her very life would fail.
There’s not a house within a mile,
No hand to help them in distress:
Old Susan lies a-bed in pain,
And sorely puzzled are the twain,
For what she ails they cannot guess.
And Betty’s Husband’s at the wood,
Where by the week he doth abide,
A Woodman in the distant vale;
There’s none to help poor Susan Gale;
What must be done? what will betide?
And Betty from the lane has fetched
Her Pony, that is mild and good,
Whether he be in joy or pain,
Feeding at will along the lane,
Or bringing faggots from the wood.
And he is all in travelling trim,
And by the moonlight, Betty Foy
Has up upon the saddle set,
The like was never heard of yet,
Him whom she loves, her Idiot Boy.
And he must post without delay
Across the bridge that’s in the dale,
And by the church, and o’er the down,
To bring a Doctor from the town,
Or she will die, old Susan Gale.
There is no need of boot or spur,
There is no need of whip or wand,
For Johnny has his holly-bough,
And with a hurly-burly now
He shakes the green bough in his hand.
And Betty o’er and o’er has told
The Boy who is her best delight
Both what to follow, what to shun,
What do, and what to leave undone,
How turn to left, and how to right.
And Betty’s most especial charge,
Was, “Johnny! Johnny! mind that you
Come home again, nor stop at all,
Come home again, whate’er befal,
My Johnny, do, I pray you do.”
To this did Johnny answer make,
Both with his head, and with his hand,
And proudly shook the bridle too,
And then! his words were not a few,
Which Betty well could understand.
And now that Johnny is just going,
Though Betty’s in a mighty flurry,
She gently pats the Pony’s side,
On which her Idiot Boy must ride,
And seems no longer in a hurry.
But when the Pony moved his legs,
Oh! then for the poor Idiot Boy!
For joy he cannot hold the bridle,
For joy his head and heels are idle,
He’s idle all for very joy.
And while the Pony moves his legs,
In Johnny’s left hand you may see
The green bough’s motionless and dead:
The Moon that shines above his head
Is not more still and mute than he.
His heart it was so full of glee,
That till full fifty yards were gone,
He quite forgot his holly whip
And all his skill in horsemanship,
Oh! happy, happy, happy John.
And Betty’s standing at the door,
And Betty’s face with joy o’erflows,
Proud of herself, and proud of him,
She sees him in his travelling trim;
How quietly her Johnny goes.
The silence of her Idiot Boy,
What hopes it sends to Betty’s heart!
He’s at the Guide-post—he turns right,
She watches till he’s out of sight,
And Betty will not then depart.
Burr, burr—now Johnny’s lips they burr,
As loud as any mill, or near it,
Meek as a lamb the Pony moves,
And Johnny makes the noise he loves,
And Betty listens, glad to hear it.
Away she hies to Susan Gale:
And Johnny’s in a merry tune,
The Owlets hoot, the Owlets curr,
And Johnny’s lips they burr, burr, burr,
And on he goes beneath the Moon.
His Steed and He right well agree,
For of this Pony there’s a rumour,
That should he lose his eyes and ears,
And should he live a thousand years,
He never will be out of humour.
But then he is a Horse that thinks!
And when he thinks his pace is slack;
Now, though he knows poor Johnny well,
Yet for his life he cannot tell
What he has got upon his back.
So through the moonlight lanes they go,
And far into the moonlight dale,
And by the church, and o’er the down,
To bring a Doctor from the town,
To comfort poor old Susan Gale.
And Betty, now at Susan’s side,
Is in the middle of her story,
What comfort Johnny soon will bring,
With many a most diverting thing,
Of Johnny’s wit and Johnny’s glory.
And Betty’s still at Susan’s side:
By this time she’s not quite so flurried:
Demure with porringer and plate
She sits, as if in Susan’s fate
Her life and soul were buried.
But Betty, poor good Woman! she,
You plainly in her face may read it,
Could lend out of that moment’s store
Five years of happiness or more
To any that might need it.
But yet I guess that now and then
With Betty all was not so well,
And to the road she turns her ears,
And thence full many a sound she hears,
Which she to Susan will not tell.
Poor Susan moans, poor Susan groans;
“As sure as there’s a moon in heaven,”
Cries Betty, “he’ll be back again;
They’ll both be here—’tis almost ten—
They’ll both be here before eleven.”
Poor Susan moans, poor Susan groans;
The clock gives warning for eleven;
’Tis on the stroke—“If Johnny’s near,”
Quoth Betty “he will soon be here,
As sure as there’s a moon in heaven.”
The clock is on the stroke of twelve,
And Johnny is not yet in sight,
—The Moon’s in heaven, as Betty sees,
But Betty is not quite at ease;
And Susan has a dreadful night.
And Betty, half an hour ago,
On Johnny vile reflections cast:
“A little idle sauntering Thing!”
With other names, an endless string,
But now that time is gone and past.
And Betty’s drooping at the heart,
That happy time all past and gone,
“How can it be he is so late?
The Doctor he has made him wait,
Susan! they’ll both be here anon.”
And Susan’s growing worse and worse,
And Betty’s in a sad quandary;
And then there’s nobody to say
If she must go or she must stay!
—She’s in a sad quandary.
The clock is on the stroke of one;
But neither Doctor nor his Guide
Appear along the moonlight road;
There’s neither horse nor man abroad,
And Betty’s still at Susan’s side.
And Susan she begins to fear
Of sad mischances not a few,
That Johnny may perhaps be drowned,
Or lost, perhaps, and never found;
Which they must both for ever rue.
She prefaced half a hint of this
With, “God forbid it should be true!”
At the first word that Susan said
Cried Betty, rising from the bed,
“Susan, I’d gladly stay with you.
I must be gone, I must away,
Consider, Johnny’s but half-wise;
Susan, we must take care of him,
If he is hurt in life or limb”—
“Oh God forbid!” poor Susan cries.
“What can I do?” says Betty, going,
“What can I do to ease your pain?
Good Susan tell me, and I’ll stay;
I fear you’re in a dreadful way,
But I shall soon be back again.”
“Nay, Betty, go! good Betty, go!
There’s nothing that can ease my pain.”
Then off she hies, but with a prayer
That God poor Susan’s life would spare,
Till she comes back again.
So, through the moonlight lane she goes,
And far into the moonlight dale;
And how she ran, and how she walked,
And all that to herself she talked,
Would surely be a tedious tale.
In high and low, above, below,
In great and small, in round and square,
In tree and tower was Johnny seen,
In bush and brake, in black and green,
’Twas Johnny, Johnny, every where.
She’s past the bridge that’s in the dale,
And now the thought torments her sore,
Johnny perhaps his horse forsook,
To hunt the moon that’s in the brook,
And never will be heard of more.
And now she’s high upon the down,
Alone amid a prospect wide;
There’s neither Johnny nor his Horse
Among the fern or in the gorse;
There’s neither Doctor nor his Guide.
“Oh saints! what is become of him?
Perhaps he’s climbed into an oak,
Where he will stay till he is dead;
Or, sadly he has been misled,
And joined the wandering gypsey-folk.
Or him that wicked Pony’s carried
To the dark cave, the goblin’s hall;
Or in the castle he’s pursuing,
Among the ghosts his own undoing;
Or playing with the waterfall.”
At poor old Susan then she railed,
While to the town she posts away;
“If Susan had not been so ill,
Alas! I should have had him still.
My Johnny, till my dying day.”
Poor Betty! in this sad distemper,
The Doctor’s self would hardly spare,
Unworthy things she talked and wild,
Even he, of cattle the most mild,
The Pony had his share.
And now she’s got into the town,
And to the Doctor’s door she hies;
’Tis silence all on every side;
The town so long, the town so wide,
Is silent as the skies.
And now she’s at the Doctor’s door,
She lifts the knocker, rap, rap, rap;
The Doctor at the casement shows
His glimmering eyes that peep and dose;
And one hand rubs his old night-cap.
“Oh Doctor! Doctor! where’s my Johnny?”
“I’m here, what is’t you want with me?”
“Oh Sir! you know I’m Betty Foy,
And I have lost my poor dear Boy,
You know him—him you often see;
He’s not so wise as some folks be.”
“The devil take his wisdom!” said
The Doctor, looking somewhat grim,
“What, Woman! should I know of him?”
And, grumbling, he went back to bed.
“O woe is me! O woe is me!
Here will I die; here will I die;
I thought to find my Johnny here,
But he is neither far nor near,
Oh! what a wretched Mother I!”
She stops, she stands, she looks about,
Which way to turn she cannot tell.
Poor Betty! it would ease her pain
If she had heart to knock again;
—The clock strikes three—a dismal knell!
Then up along the town she hies,
No wonder if her senses fail,
This piteous news so much it shocked her,
She quite forgot to send the Doctor,
To comfort poor old Susan Gale.
And now she’s high upon the down,
And she can see a mile of road;
“Oh cruel! I’m almost threescore;
Such night as this was ne’er before,
There’s not a single soul abroad.”
She listens, but she cannot hear
The foot of horse, the voice of man;
The streams with softest sound are flowing,
The grass you almost hear it growing,
You hear it now if e’er you can.
The Owlets through the long blue night
Are shouting to each other still:
Fond lovers! yet not quite hob nob,
They lengthen out the tremulous sob,
That echoes far from hill to hill.
Poor Betty now has lost all hope,
Her thoughts are bent on deadly sin:
A green-grown pond she just has passed,
And from the brink she hurries fast,
Lest she should drown herself therein.
And now she sits her down and weeps;
Such tears she never shed before;
“Oh dear, dear Pony! my sweet joy!
Oh carry back my Idiot Boy!
And we will ne’er o’erload thee more.”
A thought is come into her head:
“The Pony he is mild and good,
And we have always used him well;
Perhaps he’s gone along the dell,
And carried Johnny to the wood.”
Then up she springs, as if on wings;
She thinks no more of deadly sin;
If Betty fifty ponds should see,
The last of all her thoughts would be,
To drown herself therein.
Oh Reader! now that I might tell
What Johnny and his Horse are doing!
What they’ve been doing all this time,
Oh could I put it into rhyme,
A most delightful tale pursuing!
Perhaps, and no unlikely thought!
He with his Pony now doth roam
The cliffs and peaks so high that are,
To lay his hands upon a star,
And in his pocket bring it home.
Perhaps he’s turned himself about,
His face unto his horse’s tail,
And still and mute, in wonder lost,
All like a silent Horseman-Ghost,
He travels on along the vale.
And now, perhaps, he’s hunting sheep,
A fierce and dreadful hunter he;
Yon valley, that’s so trim and green,
In five months’ time, should he be seen,
A desart wilderness will be.
Perhaps, with head and heels on fire,
And like the very soul of evil,
He’s galloping away, away,
And so he’ll gallop on for aye,
The bane of all that dread the devil.
I to the Muses have been bound
These fourteen years, by strong indentures:
Oh gentle Muses! let me tell
But half of what to him befel,
He surely met with strange adventures.
Oh gentle Muses! is this kind?
Why will ye thus my suit repel?
Why of your further aid bereave me?
And can ye thus unfriended leave me;
Ye Muses! whom I love so well.
Who’s yon, that, near the waterfall,
Which thunders down with headlong force,
Beneath the Moon, yet shining fair,
As careless as if nothing were,
Sits upright on a feeding Horse?
Unto his Horse, that’s feeding free,
He seems, I think, the rein to give;
Of Moon or Stars he takes no heed;
Of such we in romances read,
—’Tis Johnny! Johnny! as I live.
And that’s the very Pony too.
Where is she, where is Betty Foy?
She hardly can sustain her fears;
The roaring water-fall she hears,
And cannot find her Idiot Boy.
Your Pony’s worth his weight in gold,
Then calm your terrors, Betty Foy!
She’s coming from among the trees,
And now all full in view she sees
Him whom she loves, her Idiot Boy.
And Betty sees the Pony too:
Why stand you thus, good Betty Foy?
It is no goblin, ’tis no ghost,
’Tis he whom you so long have lost,
He whom you love, your Idiot Boy.
She looks again—her arms are up—
She screams—she cannot move for joy;
She darts, as with a torrent’s force,
She almost has o’erturned the Horse,
And fast she holds her Idiot Boy.
And Johnny burrs, and laughs aloud,
Whether in cunning or in joy
I cannot tell; but while he laughs,
Betty a drunken pleasure quaffs,
To hear again her Idiot Boy.
And now she’s at the Pony’s tail,
And now she’s at the Pony’s head,
On that side now, and now on this,
And almost stifled with her bliss,
A few sad tears does Betty shed.
She kisses o’er and o’er again,
Him whom she loves, her Idiot Boy,
She’s happy here, she’s happy there,
She is uneasy every where;
Her limbs are all alive with joy.
She pats the Pony, where or when
She knows not, happy Betty Foy!
The little Pony glad may be,
But he is milder far than she,
You hardly can perceive his joy.
“Oh! Johnny, never mind the Doctor;
You’ve done your best, and that is all.”
She took the reins, when this was said,
And gently turned the Pony’s head
From the loud water-fall.
By this the stars were almost gone,
The moon was setting on the hill,
So pale you scarcely looked at her:
The little birds began to stir,
Though yet their tongues were still.
The Pony, Betty, and her Boy,
Wind slowly through the woody dale;
And who is she, be-times abroad,
That hobbles up the steep rough road?
Who is it, but old Susan Gale?
Long Susan lay deep lost in thought,
And many dreadful fears beset her,
Both for her Messenger and Nurse;
And as her mind grew worse and worse,
Her body it grew better.
She turned, she tossed herself in bed,
On all sides doubts and terrors met her;
Point after point did she discuss;
And while her mind was fighting thus,
Her body still grew better.
“Alas! what is become of them?
These fears can never be endured,
I’ll to the wood.”—The word scarce said,
Did Susan rise up from her bed,
As if by magic cured.
Away she posts up hill and down,
And to the wood at length is come,
She spies her Friends, she shouts a greeting;
Oh me! it is a merry meeting,
As ever was in Christendom.
The Owls have hardly sung their last,
While our four Travellers homeward wend;
The Owls have hooted all night long,
And with the Owls began my song,
And with the Owls must end.
For, while they all were travelling home,
Cried Betty, “Tell us, Johnny, do,
Where all this long night you have been,
What you have heard, what you have seen,
And, Johnny, mind you tell us true.”
Now Johnny all night long had heard
The Owls in tuneful concert strive;
No doubt too he the Moon had seen;
For in the moonlight he had been
From eight o’clock till five.
And thus, to Betty’s question, he
Made answer, like a Traveller bold,
(His very words I give to you,)
“The Cocks did crow to-whoo, to-whoo,
And the Sun did shine so cold.”
—Thus answered Johnny in his glory,
And that was all his travel’s story.
All Thoughts, all Passions, all Delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal Frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.
Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the Mount I lay
Beside the Ruined Tower.
The Moonshine stealing o’er the scene
Had blended with the Lights of Eve;
And she was there, my Hope, my Joy,
My own dear Genevieve!
She leaned against the Armed Man,
The Statue of the Armed Knight:
She stood and listened to my Harp
Amid the ling’ring Light.
Few Sorrows hath she of her own,
My Hope, my Joy, my Genevieve!
She loves me best, whene’er I sing
The Songs, that make her grieve.
I played a soft and doleful Air,
I sang an old and moving Story—
An old rude Song that fitted well
The Ruin wild and hoary.
She listened with a flitting Blush,
With downcast Eyes and modest Grace;
For well she knew, I could not choose
But gaze upon her Face.
I told her of the Knight, that wore
Upon his Shield a burning Brand;
And that for ten long Years he wooed
The Lady of the Land.
I told her, how he pin’d: and, ah!
The low, the deep, the pleading tone,
With which I sang another’s Love,
Interpreted my own.
She listened with a flitting Blush,
With downcast Eyes and modest Grace;
And she forgave me, that I gazed
Too fondly on her Face!
But when I told the cruel scorn
Which crazed this bold and lovely Knight,
And that he crossed the mountain woods
Nor rested day nor night;
That sometimes from the savage Den,
And sometimes from the darksome Shade,
And sometimes starting up at once
In green and sunny Glade,
There came, and looked him in the face,
An Angel beautiful and bright;
And that he knew, it was a Fiend,
This miserable Knight!
And how, unknowing what he did,
He leapt amid a murd’rous Band,
And saved from Outrage worse than Death
The Lady of the Land;
And how she wept and clasped his knees,
And how she tended him in vain—
And ever strove to expiate
The Scorn, that crazed his Brain:
And that she nursed him in a Cave;
And how his Madness went away
When on the yellow forest leaves
A dying Man he lay;
His dying words—But when I reached
That tenderest strain of all the Ditty,
My falt’ring Voice and pausing Harp
Disturbed her Soul with Pity!
All Impulses of Soul and Sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve,
The Music, and the doleful Tale,
The rich and balmy Eve;
And Hopes, and Fears that kindle Hope,
An undistinguishable Throng!
And gentle Wishes long subdued,
Subdued and cherished long!
She wept with pity and delight,
She blushed with love and maiden shame;
And, like the murmur of a dream,
I heard her breathe my name.
Her bosom heaved—she stepped aside;
As conscious of my Look, she stepped—
Then suddenly with timorous eye
She fled to me and wept.
She half enclosed me with her arms,
She pressed me with a meek embrace;
And bending back her head looked up,
And gazed upon my face.
’Twas partly Love, and partly Fear,
And partly ’twas a bashful Art
That I might rather feel than see
The Swelling of her Heart.
I calmed her fears; and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin Pride.
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride!
The Mad Mother
Her eyes are wild, her head is bare,
The sun has burnt her coal-black hair,
Her eye-brows have a rusty stain,
And she came far from over the main.
She has a baby on her arm,
Or else she were alone;
And underneath the hay-stack warm,
And on the green-wood stone,
She talked and sung the woods among;
And it was in the English tongue.
“Sweet Babe! they say that I am mad,
But nay, my heart is far too glad;
And I am happy when I sing
Full many a sad and doleful thing:
Then, lovely Babe, do not fear!
I pray thee have no fear of me,
But, safe as in a cradle, here,
My lovely Baby! thou shalt be,
To thee I know too much I owe;
I cannot work thee any woe.
A fire was once within my brain;
And in my head a dull, dull pain;
And fiendish faces one, two, three,
Hung at my breasts, and pulled at me.
But then there came a sight of joy;
It came at once to do me good;
I waked, and saw my little Boy,
My little Boy of flesh and blood;
Oh joy for me that sight to see!
For he was here, and only he.
Suck, little Babe, oh suck again!
It cools my blood; it cools my brain;
Thy lips I feel them, Baby! they
Draw from my heart the pain away.
Oh! press me with thy little hand;
It loosens something at my chest;
About that tight and deadly band
I feel thy little fingers prest.
The breeze I see is in the tree;
It comes to cool my Babe and me.
Oh! love me, love me, little Boy!
Thou art thy Mother’s only joy;
And do not dread the waves below,
When o’er the sea-rock’s edge we go;
The high crag cannot work me harm,
Nor leaping torrents when they howl;
The Babe I carry on my arm,
He saves for me my precious soul:
Then happy lie, for blest am I;
Without me my sweet Babe would die.
Then do not fear, my Boy! for thee
Bold as a lion I will be;
And I will always be thy guide,
Through hollow snows and rivers wide.
I’ll build an Indian bower; I know
The leaves that make the softest bed:
And, if from me thou wilt not go,
But still be true till I am dead,
My pretty thing! then thou shalt sing
As merry as the birds in spring.
Thy Father cares not for my breast,
’Tis thine, sweet Baby, there to rest:
’Tis all thine own! and, if its hue
Be changed, that was so fair to view,
’Tis fair enough for thee, my dove!
My beauty, little Child, is flown;
But thou wilt live with me in love,
And what if my poor cheek be brown?
’Tis well for me, thou canst not see
How pale and wan it else would be.
Dread not their taunts, my little life!
I am thy Father’s wedded Wife;
And underneath the spreading tree
We two will live in honesty.
If his sweet Boy he could forsake,
With me he never would have stayed:
From him no harm my Babe can take,
But he, poor Man! is wretched made,
And every day we two will pray
For him that’s gone and far away.
I’ll teach my Boy the sweetest things;
I’ll teach him how the owlet sings.
My little Babe! thy lips are still,
And thou hast almost sucked thy fill.
—Where art thou gone, my own dear Child?
What wicked looks are those I see?
Alas! alas! that look so wild,
It never, never came from me:
If thou art mad, my pretty lad,
Then I must be for ever sad.
Oh! smile on me, my little lamb!
For I thy own dear Mother am.
My love for thee has well been tried:
I’ve sought thy Father far and wide.
I know the poisons of the shade,
I know the earth-nuts fit for food;
Then, pretty dear, be not afraid;
We’ll find thy Father in the wood.
Now laugh and be gay, to the woods away!
And there, my babe, we’ll live for aye.”
The Ancient Mariner
A Poet’s Reverie
It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three:
“By thy long gray beard and thy glittering eye
Now wherefore stoppest me?
The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The Guests are met, the Feast is set—
May’st hear the merry din.”
But still he holds the wedding-guest—
“There was a Ship,” quoth he—
“Nay, if thou’st got a laughsome tale,
Mariner! come with me.”
He holds him with his skinny hand,
Quoth he, “There was a Ship—”
“Now get thee hence, thou gray-beard Loon!
Or my Staff shall make thee skip.”
He holds him with his glittering eye—
The wedding-guest stood still
And listens like a three years’ child;
The Mariner hath his will.
The wedding-guest sate on a stone,
He cannot choose but hear:
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.
“The Ship was cheered, the Harbour cleared—
Merrily did we drop
Below the Kirk, below the Hill,
Below the Light-house top.
The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the Sea came he:
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.
Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon—”
The wedding-guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.
The Bride hath paced into the Hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her go
The merry Minstrelsy.
The wedding-guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear:
And thus spake on that ancient Man,
The bright-eyed Mariner:
“But now the North wind came more fierce,
There came a Tempest strong!
And Southward still for days and weeks
Like Chaff we drove along.
And now there came both Mist and Snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And Ice mast-high came floating by
As green as Emerald.
And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen;
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The Ice was all between.
The Ice was here, the Ice was there,
The Ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
A wild and ceaseless sound.
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the Fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian Soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.
The Mariners gave it biscuit-worms,
And round and round it flew:
The Ice did split with a Thunder-fit;
The Helmsman steered us through.
And a good South wind sprung up behind,
The Albatross did follow;
And every day for food or play
Came to the Mariner’s hollo!
In mist or cloud on mast or shroud
It perched for vespers nine,
Whiles all the night through fog-smoke white
Glimmered the white moon-shine.”
“God save thee, antient Mariner!
From the fiends that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?”—“With my cross bow
I shot the Albatross.”
“The Sun now rose upon the right,
Out of the Sea came he;
Still hid in mist; and on the left
Went down into the Sea.
And the good South wind still blew behind,
But no sweet Bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the Mariner’s hollo!
And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the Bird
That made the Breeze to blow.
Nor dim nor red, like an Angel’s head,
The glorious Sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the Bird
That brought the fog and mist.
’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay
That bring the fog and mist.
The breezes blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free:
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent Sea.
Down dropt the breeze, the Sails dropt down,
’Twas sad as sad could be,
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the Sea.
All in a hot and copper sky
The bloody sun at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion,
As idle as a painted Ship
Upon a painted Ocean.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The very deeps did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy Sea.
About, about, in reel and rout
The Death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green and blue and white.
And some in dreams assured were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so:
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the Land of Mist and Snow.
And every tongue through utter drouth
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak no more than if
We had been choked with soot.
Ah well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the Cross the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
“So pass’d a weary time; each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye,
When, looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.
At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist:
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.
A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it ner’d and ner’d;
And as if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.
With throat unslaked, with black lips baked
We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drouth all dumb we stood
Till I bit my arm and sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!
With throat unslaked, with black lips baked
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in
As they were drinking all.
See! See! (I cried) she tacks no more!
Hither to work us weal
Without a breeze, without a tide
She steddies with upright keel!
The western wave was all a flame.
The day was well nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright Sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the Sun.
And straight the Sun was flecked with bars
(Heaven’s Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon grate he peered
With broad and burning face.
Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she neres and neres!
Are those her Sails that glance in the Sun
Like restless gossameres?
Are those her Ribs, through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And are those two all, all her crew,
That Woman, and her Mate?
His bones were black with many a crack,
All black and bare, I ween;
Jet-black and bare, save where with rust
Of mouldy damps and charnel crust
They were patched with purple and green.
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was white as leprosy,
And she was far liker Death than he;
Her flesh made the still air cold.
The naked Hulk alongside came
And the Twain were playing dice;
“The Game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won!”
Quoth she, and whistled thrice.
A gust of wind sterte up behind
And whistled through his bones;
Thro’ the hole of his eyes and the hole of his mouth
Half-whistles and half-groans.
With never a whisper in the Sea
Off darts the Spectre-ship;
While clombe above the Eastern bar
The horned Moon, with one bright Star
Almost between the tips.
One after one by the horned Moon
(Listen, O Stranger! to me)
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang
And cursed me with his ee.
Four times fifty living men,
With never a sigh or groan,
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump
They dropped down one by one.
Their souls did from their bodies fly—
They fled to bliss or woe;
And every soul it passed me by,
Like the whiz of my Cross-bow.
“I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand;
And thou art long and lank and brown
As is the ribbed Sea-sand.
I fear thee and thy glittering eye
And thy skinny hand so brown”—
“Fear not, fear not, thou wedding-guest!
This body dropt not down.
Alone, alone, all all alone,
Alone on the wide wide Sea;
And Christ would take no pity on
My soul in agony.
The many men so beautiful,
And they all dead did lie!
And a million million slimy things
Lived on—and so did I.
I looked upon the rotting Sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the ghastly deck,
And there the dead men lay.
I looked to Heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came and made
My heart as dry as dust.
I closed my lids and kept them close,
Till the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.
The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they;
The look with which they looked on me,
Had never passed away.
An orphan’s curse would drag to Hell
A spirit from on high:
But O! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!
Seven days, seven nights I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.
The moving Moon went up the sky
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up
And a star or two beside—
Her beams bemocked the sultry main
Like April hoar-frost spread;
But where the Ship’s huge shadow lay,
The charmed water burnt alway
A still and awful red.
Beyond the shadow of the ship
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white;
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.
Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.
O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gusht from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware!
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.
The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.
“O sleep, it is a gentle thing
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary-queen the praise be given,
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven
That slid into my soul.
The silly buckets on the deck
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew,
And when I awoke it rained.
My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.
I moved and could not feel my limbs,
I was so light, almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed Ghost.
And soon I heard a roaring wind,
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails
That were so thin and sere.
The upper air burst into life,
And a hundred fire-flags sheen
To and fro they were hurried about;
And to and fro, and in and out
The wan stars danced between.
And the coming wind did roar more loud;
And the sails did sigh like sedge:
And the rain poured down from one black cloud
The moon was at its edge.
The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The Moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag
A river steep and wide.
The loud wind never reached the Ship,
Yet now the Ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the moon
The dead men gave a groan.
They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes:
It had been strange, even in a dream
To have seen those dead men rise.
The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up-blew;
The Mariners all ’gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do:
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools—
We were a ghastly crew.
The body of my brother’s son
Stood by me knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.”
“I fear thee, ancient Mariner!”
“Be calm, thou wedding-guest!
’Twas not those souls, that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of Spirits blest:
For when it dawned—they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast:
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.
Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the sun:
Slowly the sounds came back again
Now mixed, now one by one.
Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the Sky-lark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!
And now ’twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute:
And now it is an angel’s song
That makes the heavens be mute.
It ceased: yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.
Till noon we silently sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe:
Slowly and smoothly went the Ship
Moved onward from beneath.
Under the keel nine fathom deep
From the land of mist and snow
The Spirit slid: and it was He
That made the Ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune,
And the Ship stood still also.
The sun right up above the mast
Had fixed her to the ocean:
But in a minute she ’gan stir
With a short uneasy motion—
Backwards and forwards half her length,
With a short uneasy motion.
Then, like a pawing horse let go,
She made a sudden bound:
It flung the blood into my head,
And I fell into a swound.
How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.
‘Is it he?’ quoth one, ‘Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.
The Spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.
The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, ‘The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.’
“ ‘But tell me, tell me! speak again,
Thy soft response renewing—
What makes that ship drive on so fast?
What is the Ocean doing?’
‘Still as a Slave before his Lord,
The Ocean hath no blast:
His great bright eye most silently
Up to the moon is cast—
If he may know which way to go,
For she guides him smooth or grim.
See, brother, see! how graciously
She looketh down on him.’
‘But why drives on that ship so fast
Without or wave or wind?’
‘The air is cut away before,
And closes from behind.
Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high,
Or we shall be belated:
For slow and slow that ship will go,
When the Mariner’s trance is abated.’
“I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather:
’Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
The dead men stood together.
All stood together on the deck,
For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
All fixed on me their stony eyes
That in the moon did glitter.
The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away;
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor turn them up to pray.
And now this spell was snapt: once more
I viewed the ocean green,
And looked far forth, yet little saw
Of what had else been seen—
Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round, walks on
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea
In ripple or in shade.
It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek,
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—
On me alone it blew.
O dream of joy! is this indeed
The light-house top I see?
Is this the Hill? Is this the Kirk?
Is this mine own countrée?
We drifted o’er the Harbour-bar,
And I with sobs did pray—
‘O let me be awake, my God!
Or let me sleep alway!’
The harbour-bay was clear as glass,
So smoothly it was strewn!
And on the bay the moonlight lay,
And the shadow of the moon.
The rock shone bright, the kirk no less
That stands above the rock:
The moonlight steeped in silentness
The steady weathercock.
And the bay was white with silent light,
Till rising from the same
Full many shapes, that shadows were,
In crimson colours came.
A little distance from the prow
Those crimson shadows were:
I turned my eyes upon the deck—
O Christ! what saw I there?
Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat;
And by the Holy rood
A man all light, a seraph-man,
On every corse there stood.
This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
It was a heavenly sight:
They stood as signals to the land,
Each one a lovely light:
This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart—
No voice; but O! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.
But soon I heard the dash of oars,
I heard the pilot’s cheer:
My head was turned perforce away,
And I saw a boat appear.
The pilot, and the pilot’s boy,
I heard them coming fast:
Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy
The dead men could not blast.
I saw a third—I heard his voice:
It is the Hermit good!
He singeth loud his godly hymns
That he makes in the wood.
He’ll shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away
The Albatross’s blood.
“This Hermit good lives in that wood
Which slopes down to the Sea.
How loudly his sweet voice he rears!
He loves to talk with Mariners
That come from a far countrée.
He kneels at morn and noon and eve—
He hath a cushion plump:
It is the moss that wholly hides
The rotted old Oak-stump.
The Skiff-boat ner’d: I heard them talk,
‘Why, this is strange, I trow!
Where are those lights so many and fair
That signal made but now?’
‘Strange, by my faith!’ the Hermit said—
‘And they answered not our cheer.
The planks look warped, and see those sails
How thin they are and sere!
I never saw aught like to them
Unless perchance it were
The skeletons of leaves that lag
My forest brook along:
When the Ivy-tod is heavy with snow,
And the Owlet whoops to the wolf below
That eats the she-wolf’s young.’
‘Dear Lord! it has a fiendish look—
(The pilot made reply)
I am a-feared.’—‘Push on, push on!’
Said the Hermit cheerily.
The Boat came closer to the Ship,
But I nor spake nor stirred:
The Boat came close beneath the Ship,
And straight a sound was heard.
Under the water it rumbled on,
Still louder and more dread:
It reached the ship, it split the bay;
The ship went down like lead.
Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound,
Which sky and ocean smote,
Like one that hath been seven days drowned
My body lay afloat:
But, swift as dreams, myself I found
Within the Pilot’s boat.
Upon the whirl, where sank the Ship,
The boat spun round and round,
And all was still, save that the hill
Was telling of the sound.
I moved my lips: the Pilot shrieked
And fell down in a fit.
The Holy Hermit raised his eyes
And prayed where he did sit.
I took the oars: the Pilot’s boy,
Who now doth crazy go,
Laughed loud and long, and all the while
His eyes went to and fro,
‘Ha! ha!’ quoth he—‘full plain I see,
The devil knows how to row.’
And now all in mine own countrée
I stood on the firm land!
The Hermit stepped forth from the boat,
And scarcely he could stand.
‘O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy Man!’
The Hermit crossed his brow.
‘Say quick,’ quoth he, ‘I bid thee say
What manner man art thou?’
Forthwith this frame of mind was wrenched
With a woeful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale,
And then it left me free.
Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns;
And till my ghastly tale is told
This heart within me burns.
I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
The moment that his face I see
I know the man that must hear me;
To him my tale I teach.
What loud uproar bursts from that door!
The wedding-guests are there;
But in the garden-bower the bride
And bride-maids singing are;
And hark the little vesper-bell
Which biddeth me to prayer.
O wedding-guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea:
So lonely ’twas, that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be.
O sweeter than the marriage-feast,
’Tis sweeter far to me
To walk together to the Kirk
With a goodly company:—
To walk together to the Kirk
And all together pray,
While each to his great Father bends,
Old men, and babes, and loving friends,
And youths, and maidens gay.
Farewell, farewell! But this I tell
To thee, thou wedding-guest!
He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small:
For the dear God, who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”
The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone; and now the wedding-guest
Turned from the bridegroom’s door.
He went, like one that hath been stunned
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man
He rose the morrow morn.
Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour5
Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.6—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
Among the woods and copses, nor disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
With some uncertain notice, as might seem,
Of vagrant Dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.
Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As may have had no trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led: more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by,)
To me was all in all—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite: a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half create,7
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me, here, upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance,
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence, wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake.
Hart-Leap Well is a small spring of water, about five miles from Richmond in Yorkshire, and near the side of the road which leads from Richmond to Askrigg. Its name is derived from a remarkable Chase, the memory of which is preserved by the monuments spoken of in the second Part of the following Poem, which monuments do now exist as I have there described them.
The Knight had ridden down from Wensley moor
With the slow motion of a summer’s cloud;
He turned aside towards a Vassal’s door,
And, “Bring another Horse!” he cried aloud.
“Another Horse!”—That shout the Vassal heard,
And saddled his best steed, a comely gray;
Sir Walter mounted him; he was the third
Which he had mounted on that glorious day.
Joy sparkled in the prancing Courser’s eyes;
The Horse and Horseman are a happy pair;
But, though Sir Walter like a falcon flies,
There is a doleful silence in the air.
A rout this morning left Sir Walter’s Hall,
That as they galloped made the echoes roar;
But Horse and Man are vanished, one and all;
Such race, I think, was never seen before.
Sir Walter, restless as a veering wind,
Calls to the few tired Dogs that yet remain:
Brach, Swift, and Music, noblest of their kind,
Follow, and up the weary mountain strain.
The Knight hallooed, he chid and cheered them on
With suppliant gestures and upbraidings stern;
But breath and eye-sight fail; and, one by one,
The Dogs are stretched among the mountain fern.
Where is the throng, the tumult of the race?
The bugles that so joyfully were blown?
—This Chase it looks not like an earthly Chase;
Sir Walter and the Hart are left alone.
The poor Hart toils along the mountain side;
I will not stop to tell how far he fled,
Nor will I mention by what death he died;
But now the Knight beholds him lying dead.
Dismounting then, he leaned against a thorn;
He had no follower, Dog, nor Man, nor Boy:
He neither smacked his whip, nor blew his horn,
But gazed upon the spoil with silent joy.
Close to the thorn on which Sir Walter leaned,
Stood his dumb partner in this glorious act;
Weak as a lamb the hour that it is yeaned,
And foaming like a mountain cataract.
Upon his side the Hart was lying stretched:
His nose half-touched a spring beneath a hill,
And with the last deep groan his breath had fetched
The waters of the spring were trembling still.
And now, too happy for repose or rest,
(Was never man in such a joyful case!)
Sir Walter walked all round, north, south, and west,
And gazed and gazed upon that darling place.
And climbing up the hill—(it was at least
Nine roods of sheer ascent) Sir Walter found
Three several hoof-marks which the hunted Beast
Had left imprinted on the verdant ground.
Sir Walter wiped his face and cried, “Till now
Such sight was never seen by living eyes:
Three leaps have borne him from this lofty brow,
Down to the very fountain where he lies.
I’ll build a Pleasure-house upon this spot,
And a small Arbour, made for rural joy;
’Twill be the Traveller’s shed, the Pilgrim’s cot,
A place of love for Damsels that are coy.
A cunning Artist will I have to frame
A bason for that Fountain in the dell;
And they who do make mention of the same
From this day forth, shall call it Hart-Leap Well.
And, gallant brute! to make thy praises known,
Another monument shall here be raised;
Three several Pillars, each a rough hewn Stone,
And planted where thy hoofs the turf have grazed.
And in the summer-time when days are long,
I will come hither with my Paramour;
And with the Dancers, and the Minstrel’s song,
We will make merry in that pleasant Bower.
Till the foundations of the mountains fail
My Mansion with its Arbour shall endure;—
The joy of them who till the fields of Swale,
And them who dwell among the woods of Ure!”
Then home he went, and left the Hart, stone-dead,
With breathless nostrils stretched above the spring.
And soon the Knight performed what he had said,
The fame whereof through many a land did ring.
Ere thrice the moon into her port had steered,
A Cup of Stone received the living Well;
Three Pillars of rude stone Sir Walter reared,
And built a House of Pleasure in the dell.
And near the fountain, flowers of stature tall
With trailing plants and trees were intertwined,
Which soon composed a little sylvan Hall,
A leafy shelter from the sun and wind.
And thither, when the summer days were long,
Sir Walter journeyed with his Paramour;
And with the Dancers and the Minstrel’s song
Made merriment within that pleasant Bower.
The Knight, Sir Walter, died in course of time,
And his bones lie in his paternal vale.—
But there is matter for a second rhyme,
And I to this would add another tale.
The moving accident is not my trade:
To freeze the blood I have no ready arts:
’Tis my delight, alone in summer shade,
To pipe a simple song to thinking hearts.
As I from Hawes to Richmond did repair,
It chanced that I saw standing in a dell
Three Aspens at three corners of a square,
And one, not four yards distant, near a Well.
What this imported I could ill divine:
And, pulling now the rein my horse to stop,
I saw three Pillars standing in a line,
The last Stone Pillar on a dark hill-top.
The trees were gray, with neither arms nor head;
Half-wasted the square Mound of tawny green;
So that you just might say, as then I said,
“Here in old time the hand of man has been.”
I looked upon the hills both far and near,
More doleful place did never eye survey;
It seemed as if the spring-time came not here,
And Nature here were willing to decay.
I stood in various thoughts and fancies lost,
When one, who was in Shepherd’s garb attired,
Came up the Hollow. Him did I accost,
And what this place might be I then inquired.
The Shepherd stopped, and that same story told
Which in my former rhyme I have rehearsed.
“A jolly place,” said he, “in times of old!
But something ails it now; the spot is curst.
You see these lifeless Stumps of aspen wood—
Some say that they are beeches, others elms—
These were the Bower; and here a Mansion stood,
The finest palace of a hundred realms!
The Arbour does its own condition tell;
You see the Stones, the Fountain, and the Stream,
But as to the great Lodge! you might as well
Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.
There’s neither dog nor heifer, horse nor sheep,
Will wet his lips within that Cup of Stone;
And oftentimes, when all are fast asleep,
This water doth send forth a dolorous groan.
Some say that here a murder has been done,
And blood cries out for blood: but, for my part,
I’ve guessed, when I’ve been sitting in the sun,
That it was all for that unhappy Hart.
What thoughts must through the creature’s brain have passed!
From the stone upon the summit of the steep
Are but three bounds—and look, Sir, at this last—
—O Master! it has been a cruel leap.
For thirteen hours he ran a desperate race;
And in my simple mind we cannot tell
What cause the Hart might have to love this place,
And come and make his death-bed near the Well.
Here on the grass perhaps asleep he sank,
Lulled by this Fountain in the summer-tide;
This water was perhaps the first he drank
When he had wandered from his mother’s side.
In April here beneath the scented thorn
He heard the birds their morning carols sing;
And he, perhaps, for aught we know, was born
Not half a furlong from that self-same spring.
But now here’s neither grass nor pleasant shade;
The sun on drearier Hollow never shone:
So will it be, as I have often said,
Till Trees, and Stones, and Fountain all are gone.”
“Gray-headed Shepherd, thou hast spoken well;
Small difference lies between thy creed and mine:
This Beast not unobserved by Nature fell;
His death was mourned by sympathy divine.
The Being, that is in the clouds and air,
That is in the green leaves among the groves,
Maintains a deep and reverential care
For them the quiet creatures whom he loves.
The Pleasure-house is dust:—behind, before,
This is no common waste, no common gloom;
But Nature, in due course of time, once more
Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.
She leaves these objects to a slow decay,
That what we are, and have been, may be known;
But, at the coming of the milder day,
These monuments shall all be overgrown.
One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she shows, and what conceals,
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.”
There was a Boy, ye knew him well, ye Cliffs
And Islands of Winander! many a time,
At evening, when the stars had just begun
To move along the edges of the hills,
Rising or setting, would he stand alone,
Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake;
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,
Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls
That they might answer him. And they would shout
Across the watery vale, and shout again
Responsive to his call, with quivering peals,
And long halloos, and screams, and echoes loud
Redoubled and redoubled; concourse wild
Of mirth and jocund din! And, when it chanced
That pauses of deep silence mocked his skill,
Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain-torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, received
Into the bosom of the steady lake.
This Boy was taken from his Mates, and died
In childhood, ere he was ten years old.
Fair are the woods, and beauteous is the spot,
The Vale where he was born: the Church-yard hangs
Upon a slope above the Village School,
And there, along that bank, when I have passed
At evening, I believe, that oftentimes
A full half-hour together I have stood
Mute—looking at the grave in which he lies.
A Pastoral Poem8
“These Tourists, Heaven preserve us! needs must live
A profitable life: some glance along,
Rapid and gay, as if the earth were air,
And they were butterflies to wheel about
Long as their summer lasted: some, as wise,
Upon the forehead of a jutting crag
Sit perched, with book and pencil on their knee,
And look and scribble, scribble on and look,
Until a man might travel twelve stout miles,
Or reap an acre of his neighbour’s corn.
But, for that moping Son of Idleness,
Why can he tarry yonder?
—In our church-yard
Is neither epitaph nor monument,
Tomb-stone nor name—only the turf we tread,
And a few natural graves.” To Jane, his wife,
Thus spake the homely Priest of Ennerdale.
It was a July evening; and he sate
Upon the long stone-seat beneath the eaves
Of his old cottage, as it chanced, that day,
Employed in winter’s work. Upon the stone
His Wife sate near him, teasing matted wool,
While, from the twin cards toothed with glittering wire,
He fed the spindle of his youngest Child,
Who turned her large round wheel in the open air
With back and forward steps. Towards the field
In which the Parish Chapel stood alone,
Girt round with a bare ring of mossy wall,
While half an hour went by, the Priest had sent
Many a long look of wonder, and at last,
Risen from his seat, beside the snow-white ridge
Of carded wool which the old man had piled
He laid his implements with gentle care,
Each in the other locked; and, down the path
Which from his cottage to the church-yard led,
He took his way, impatient to accost
The Stranger, whom he saw still lingering there.
’Twas one well known to him in former days,
A Shepherd-lad: who ere his thirteenth year
Had changed his calling, with the mariners
A fellow-mariner, and so had fared
Through twenty seasons; but he had been reared
Among the mountains, and he in his heart
Was half a Shepherd on the stormy seas.
Oft in the piping shrouds had Leonard heard
The tones of waterfalls, and inland sounds
Of caves and trees:—and, when the regular wind
Between the tropics filled the steady sail,
And blew with the same breath through days and weeks,
Lengthening invisibly its weary line
Along the cloudless Main, he, in those hours
Of tiresome indolence, would often hang
Over the vessel’s side, and gaze and gaze,
And, while the broad green wave and sparkling foam
Flashed round him images and hues, that wrought
In union with the employment of his heart,
He, thus by feverish passion overcome,
Even with the organs of his bodily eye,
Below him, in the bosom of the deep,
Saw mountains, saw the forms of sheep that grazed
On verdant hills, with dwellings among trees,
And shepherds clad in the same country gray
Which he himself had worn.9
And now at length
From perils manifold, with some small wealth
Acquired by traffic in the Indian Isles,
To his paternal home he is returned,
With a determined purpose to resume
The life which he lived there; both for the sake
Of many darling pleasures, and the love
Which to an only brother he has borne
In all his hardships, since that happy time
When, whether it blew foul or fair, they two
Were brother Shepherds on their native hills.
—They were the last of all their race: and now
When Leonard had approached his home, his heart
Failed in him; and, not venturing to inquire
Tidings of one whom he so dearly loved,
Towards the church-yard he had turned aside,
That, as he knew in what particular spot
His family were laid, he thence might learn
If still his Brother lived, or to the file
Another grave was added.—He had found
Another grave, near which a full half-hour
He had remained; but, as he gazed, there grew
Such a confusion in his memory,
That he began to doubt, and he had hopes
That he had seen this heap of turf before,
That it was not another grave, but one
He had forgotten. He had lost his path,
As up the vale he came that afternoon,
Through fields which once had been well known to him.
And oh! what joy the recollection now
Sent to his heart! He lifted up his eyes,
And looking round he thought that he perceived
Strange alteration wrought on every side
Among the woods and fields, and that the rocks,
And the eternal hills, themselves were changed.
By this the Priest, who down the field had come
Unseen by Leonard, at the church-yard gate
Stopped short, and thence, at leisure, limb by limb
He scanned him with a gay complacency.
Aye, thought the Vicar, smiling to himself,
’Tis one of those who needs must leave the path
Of the world’s business to go wild alone:
His arms have a perpetual holiday;
The happy Man will creep about the fields
Following his fancies by the hour, to bring
Tears down his cheeks, or solitary smiles
Into his face, until the setting sun
Write Fool upon his forehead. Planted thus
Beneath a shed that overarched the gate
Of this rude church-yard, till the stars appeared
The good man might have communed with himself,
But that the stranger, who had left the grave,
Approached; he recognized the Priest at once,
And, after greetings interchanged, and given
By Leonard to the Vicar as to one
Unknown to him, this dialogue ensued.
You live, Sir, in these dales, a quiet life:
Your years make up one peaceful family;
And who would grieve and fret, if, welcome come
And welcome gone, they are so like each other,
They cannot be remembered? Scarce a funeral
Comes to this church-yard once in eighteen months;
And yet, some changes must take place among you:
And you, who dwell here, even among these rocks
Can trace the finger of mortality,
And see, that with our threescore years and ten
We are not all that perish.—I remember,
For many years ago I passed this road,
There was a foot-way all along the fields
By the brook-side—’tis gone—and that dark cleft!
To me it does not seem to wear the face
Which then it had.
Why, Sir, for aught I know,
That chasm is much the same—
But, surely, yonder—
Aye, there, indeed, your memory is a friend
That does not play you false—On that tall pike
(It is the loneliest place of all these hills
There were two Springs which bubbled side by side,10
As if they had been made that they might be
Companions for each other: ten years back,
Close to those brother fountains, the huge crag
Was rent with lightning—one is dead and gone,
The other, left behind, is flowing still.—
For accidents and changes such as these,
Why, we have store of them! a water-spout
Will bring down half a mountain; what a feast
For folks that wander up and down like you
To see an acre’s breadth of that wide cliff
One roaring cataract!—a sharp May storm
Will come with loads of January snow,
And in one night send twenty score of sheep
To feed the ravens; or a Shepherd dies
By some untoward death among the rocks:
The ice breaks up and sweeps away a bridge—
A wood is felled:—and then for our own homes!
A Child is born or christened, a Field ploughed,
A Daughter sent to service, a Web spun,
The old House-clock is decked with a new face;
And hence, so far from wanting facts or dates
To chronicle the time, we all have here
A pair of diaries, one serving, Sir,
For the whole dale, and one for each fire-side—
Yours was a stranger’s judgment: for Historians,
Commend me to these valleys.
Yet your Church-yard
Seems, if such freedom may be used with you,
To say that you are heedless of the past.
An orphan could not find his mother’s grave:
Here’s neither head- nor foot-stone, plate of brass,
Cross-bones or skull, type of our earthly state
Or emblem of our hopes: the dead man’s home
Is but a fellow to that pasture-field.
Why, there, Sir, is a thought that’s new to me.
The Stone-cutters, ’tis true, might beg their bread
If every English Church-yard were like ours:
Yet your conclusion wanders from the truth.
We have no need of names and epitaphs;
We talk about the dead by our fire-sides,
And then, for our immortal part! we want
No symbols, Sir, to tell us that plain tale:
The thought of death sits easy on the man11
Who has been born and dies among the mountains.
Your Dalesmen, then, do in each other’s thoughts
Possess a kind of second life: no doubt
You, Sir, could help me to the history
Of half these Graves?
For eight-score winters past,
With what I’ve witnessed, and with what I’ve heard,
Perhaps I might; and, on a winter’s evening,
If you were seated at my chimney’s nook,
By turning o’er these hillocks one by one
We two could travel, Sir, through a strange round,
Yet all in the broad high-way of the world.
Now there’s a grave—your foot is half upon it,
It looks just like the rest; and yet that Man
’Tis a common case.
We’ll take another: who is he that lies
Beneath yon ridge, the last of those three graves?
It touches on that piece of native rock
Left in the church-yard wall.
That’s Walter Ewbank.
He had as white a head and fresh a cheek
As ever were produced by youth and age
Engendering in the blood of hale fourscore.
For five long generations had the heart
Of Walter’s forefathers o’erflowed the bounds
Of their inheritance, that single cottage—
You see it yonder!—and those few green fields.
They toiled and wrought, and still, from Sire to Son,
Each struggled, and each yielded as before
A little—yet a little—and old Walter,
They left to him the family heart, and land
With other burthens than the crop it bore.
Year after year the old man still kept up
A cheerful mind, and buffeted with bond,
Interest and mortgages; at last he sank,
And went into his grave before his time.
Poor Walter! whether it was care that spurred him
God only knows, but to the very last
He had the lightest foot in Ennerdale:
His pace was never that of an old man:
I almost see him tripping down the path
With his two Grandsons after him—but You,
Unless our Landlord be your host to-night,
Have far to travel, and in these rough paths
Even in the longest day of midsummer—
But these two Orphans!
Orphans! such they were—
Yet not while Walter lived—for, though their parents
Lay buried side by side as now they lie,
The old Man was a father to the boys,
Two fathers in one father: and if tears,
Shed when he talked of them where they were not,
And hauntings from the infirmity of love,
Are aught of what makes up a mother’s heart,
This old Man in the day of his old age
Was half a mother to them.—If you weep, Sir,
To hear a Stranger talking about Strangers,
Heaven bless you when you are among your kindred!
Aye. You may turn that way—it is a grave
Which will bear looking at.
These Boys—I hope
They loved this good old Man?—
They did—and truly:
But that was what we almost overlooked,
They were such darlings of each other. For
Though from their cradles they had lived with Walter,
The only Kinsman near them in the house,
Yet he being old, they had much love to spare,
And it all went into each other’s hearts.
Leonard, the elder by just eighteen months,
Was two years taller: ’twas a joy to see,
To hear, to meet them! from their house the School
Was distant three short miles—and in the time
Of storm and thaw, when every water-course
And unbridged stream, such as you may have noticed
Crossing our roads at every hundred steps,
Was swoln into a noisy rivulet,
Would Leonard then, when elder boys perhaps
Remained at home, go staggering through the fords
Bearing his Brother on his back. I’ve seen him,
On windy days, in one of those stray brooks,
Aye, more than once I’ve seen him mid-leg deep,
Their two books lying both on a dry stone
Upon the hither side: and once I said,
As I remember, looking round these rocks
And hills on which we all of us were born,
That God who made the great book of the world
Would bless such piety—
It may be then—
Never did worthier lads break English bread!
The finest Sunday that the Autumn saw,
With all its mealy clusters of ripe nuts,
Could never keep these boys away from church,
Or tempt them to an hour of sabbath breach.
Leonard and James! I warrant, every corner
Among these rocks, and every hollow place
Where foot could come, to one or both of them
Was known as well as to the flowers that grow there.
Like Roe-bucks they went bounding o’er the hills:
They played like two young Ravens on the crags:
Then they could write, aye and speak too, as well
As many of their betters—and for Leonard!
The very night before he went away,
In my own house I put into his hand
A Bible, and I’d wager twenty pounds,
That, if he is alive, he has it yet.
It seems, these Brothers have not lived to be
A comfort to each other.—
That they might
Live to that end, is what both old and young
In this our valley all of us have wished,
And what, for my part, I have often prayed:
Then James still is left among you?
’Tis of the elder Brother I am speaking:
They had an Uncle, he was at that time
A thriving man, and trafficked on the seas:
And, but for this same Uncle, to this hour
Leonard had never handled rope or shroud.
For the Boy loved the life which we lead here;
And, though a very Stripling, twelve years old,
His soul was knit to this his native soil.
But, as I said, old Walter was too weak
To strive with such a torrent; when he died,
The Estate and House were sold, and all their Sheep,
A pretty flock, and which, for aught I know,
Had clothed the Ewbanks for a thousand years.
Well—all was gone, and they were destitute.
And Leonard, chiefly for his Brother’s sake,
Resolved to try his fortune on the seas.
’Tis now twelve years since we had tidings from him.
If there was one among us who had heard
That Leonard Ewbank was come home again,
From the great Gavel,12 down by Leeza’s Banks,13
And down the Enna, far as Egremont,
The day would be a very festival,
And those two bells of ours, which there you see
Hanging in the open air—but, O good Sir!
This is sad talk—they’ll never sound for him
Living or dead.—When last we heard of him
He was in slavery among the Moors
Upon the Barbary Coast.—’Twas not a little
That would bring down his spirit, and, no doubt,
Before it ended in his death, the Lad
Was sadly crossed—Poor Leonard! when we parted,
He took me by the hand and said to me,
If ever the day came when he was rich,
He would return, and on his Father’s Land
He would grow old among us.
If that day
Should come, ’twould needs be a glad day for him;
He would himself, no doubt, be happy then
As any that should meet him—
You said his kindred all were in their graves,
And that he had one Brother—
That is but
A fellow tale of sorrow. From his youth
James, though not sickly, yet was delicate;
And Leonard being always by his side
Had done so many offices about him,
That, though he was not of a timid nature,
Yet still the spirit of a Mountain Boy
In him was somewhat checked; and, when his Brother
Was gone to sea and he was left alone,
The little colour that he had was soon
Stolen from his cheek, he drooped, and pined and pined—
But these are all the graves of full-grown men!
Aye, Sir, that passed away: we took him to us.
He was the Child of all the dale—he lived
Three months with one, and six months with another;
And wanted neither food, nor clothes, nor love:
And many, many happy days were his.
But, whether blithe or sad, ’tis my belief
His absent Brother still was at his heart.
And, when he lived beneath our roof, we found
(A practice till this time unknown to him)
That often, rising from his bed at night,
He in his sleep would walk about, and sleeping
He sought his Brother Leonard.—You are moved!
Forgive me, Sir: before I spoke to you,
I judged you most unkindly.
But this Youth,
How did he die at last?
One sweet May morning,
It will be twelve years since, when Spring returns,
He had gone forth among the new-dropped lambs,
With two or three Companions whom it chanced
Some further business summoned to a house
Which stands at the Dale-head. James, tired perhaps,
Or from some other cause, remained behind.
You see yon Precipice—it almost looks
Like some vast building made of many crags;
And in the midst is one particular rock
That rises like a column from the vale,
Whence by our shepherds it is called the Pillar.
James pointed to its summit, over which
They all had purposed to return together,
And told them that he there would wait for them:
They parted, and his Comrades passed that way
Some two hours after, but they did not find him
Upon the Pillar—at the appointed place.
Of this they took no heed: but one of them,
Going by chance, at night, into the house
Which at that time was James’s home, there learned
That nobody had seen him all that day:
The morning came, and still, he was unheard of:
The neighbours were alarmed, and to the Brook
Some went, and some towards the Lake: ere noon
They found him at the foot of that same Rock—
Dead, and with mangled limbs. The third day after
I buried him, poor Lad, and there he lies.
And that then is
his grave?—Before his death
You said that he saw many happy years?
Aye, that he did—
And all went well with him—
If he had one, the Lad had twenty homes.
And you believe, then, that his mind was easy—
Yes, long before he died, he found that time
Is a true friend to sorrow; and unless
His thoughts were turned on Leonard’s luckless fortune,
He talked about him with a cheerful love.
He could not come to an unhallowed end!
Nay, God forbid! You recollect I mentioned
A habit which disquietude and grief
Had brought upon him; and we all conjectured
That, as the day was warm, he had lain down
Upon the grass, and, waiting for his comrades,
He there had fallen asleep; that in his sleep
He to the margin of the precipice
Had walked, and from the summit had fallen head-long.
And so no doubt he perished: at the time,
We guess, that in his hands he must have had
His Shepherd’s staff; for midway in the cliff
It had been caught; and there for many years
It hung—and mouldered there.
The Priest here ended—
The Stranger would have thanked him, but he felt
Tears rushing in. Both left the spot in silence;
And Leonard, when they reached the church-yard gate,
As the Priest lifted up the latch, turned round,
And, looking at the grave, he said, “My Brother.”
The Vicar did not hear the words: and now,
Pointing towards the Cottage, he entreated
That Leonard would partake his homely fare:
The other thanked him with a fervent voice,
But added, that, the evening being calm,
He would pursue his journey. So they parted.
It was not long ere Leonard reached a grove
That overhung the road: he there stopped short,
And, sitting down beneath the trees, reviewed
All that the Priest had said: his early years
Were with him in his heart: his cherished hopes,
And thoughts which had been his an hour before,
All pressed on him with such a weight, that now,
This vale, where he had been so happy, seemed
A place in which he could not bear to live:
So he relinquished all his purposes.
He travelled on to Egremont: and thence,
That night, he wrote a letter to the Priest
Reminding him of what had passed between them;
And adding, with a hope to be forgiven,
That it was from the weakness of his heart
He had not dared to tell him who he was.
This done, he went on shipboard, and is now
A Seaman, a gray-headed Mariner.
Or, The Braes of Kirtle14
Fair Ellen Irwin, when she sate
Upon the Braes of Kirtle,
Was lovely as a Grecian Maid
Adorned with wreaths of myrtle.
Young Adam Bruce beside her lay;
And there did they beguile the day
With love and gentle speeches,
Beneath the budding beeches.
From many Knights and many Squires
The Bruce had been selected;
And Gordon, fairest of them all,
By Ellen was rejected.
Sad tidings to that noble Youth!
For it may be proclaimed with truth,
If Bruce hath loved sincerely,
The Gordon loves as dearly.
But what is Gordon’s beauteous face?
And what are Gordon’s crosses
To them who sit by Kirtle’s Braes
Upon the verdant mosses?
Alas that ever he was born!
The Gordon, couched behind a thorn,
Sees them and their caressing,
Beholds them blest and blessing.
Proud Gordon cannot bear the thoughts
That through his brain are travelling,
And, starting up, to Bruce’s heart
He lanched a deadly javelin!
Fair Ellen saw it when it came,
And, stepping forth to meet the same,
Did with her body cover
The Youth her chosen lover.
And, falling into Bruce’s arms,
Thus died the beauteous Ellen,
Thus from the heart of her true-love
The mortal spear repelling.
And Bruce, as soon as he had slain
The Gordon, sailed away to Spain;
And fought with rage incessant
Against the Moorish Crescent.
But many days, and many months,
And many years ensuing,
This wretched Knight did vainly seek
The death that he was wooing:
And coming back across the wave,
Without a groan on Ellen’s grave
His body he extended,
And there his sorrow ended.
Now ye, who willingly have heard
The tale I have been telling,
May in Kirkonnel church-yard view
The grave of lovely Ellen:
By Ellen’s side the Bruce is laid;
And, for the stone upon his head,
May no rude hand deface it,
And its forlorn Hic Jacet!
Strange fits of passion I have known:
And I will dare to tell,
But in the Lover’s ear alone,
What once to me befel.
When she I loved, was strong and gay
And like a rose in June,
I to her cottage bent my way,
Beneath the evening Moon.
Upon the Moon I fixed my eye,
All over the wide lea:
My Horse trudged on—and we drew nigh
Those paths so dear to me.
And now we reached the orchard plot;
And, as we climbed the hill,
Towards the roof of Lucy’s cot
The Moon descended still.
In one of those sweet dreams I slept,
Kind Nature’s gentlest boon!
And, all the while, my eyes I kept
On the descending Moon.
My Horse moved on; hoof after hoof
He raised, and never stopped:
When down behind the cottage roof
At once the Planet dropped.
What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
Into a Lover’s head—
“O mercy!” to myself I cried,
“If Lucy should be dead!”
She dwelt among th’ untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise,
And very few to love.
A Violet by a mossy stone
Half-hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her Grave, and oh!
The difference to me.
A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees,
Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course
With rocks and stones and trees!
The Waterfall and the Eglantine
“Begone, thou fond presumptuous Elf,”
Exclaimed a thundering Voice,
“Nor dare to thrust thy foolish self
Between me and my choice!”
A falling Water swoln with snows
Thus spake to a poor Briar-rose,
That, all bespattered with his foam,
And dancing high, and dancing low,
Was living, as a child might know,
In an unhappy home.
“Dost thou presume my course to block?
Off, off! or, puny Thing!
I’ll hurl thee headlong with the rock
To which thy fibres cling.”
The Flood was tyrannous and strong;
The patient Briar suffered long,
Nor did he utter groan or sigh,
Hoping the danger would be past:
But seeing no relief, at last
He ventured to reply.
“Ah!” said the Briar, “blame me not;
Why should we dwell in strife?
We who in this, our natal spot,
Once lived a happy life!
You stirred me on my rocky bed—
What pleasure through my veins you spread!
The Summer long from day to day
My leaves you freshened and bedewed;
Nor was it common gratitude
That did your cares repay.
“When Spring came on with bud and bell,
Among these rocks did I
Before you hang my wreath, to tell
That gentle days were nigh!
And in the sultry summer hours
I sheltered you with leaves and flowers;
And in my leaves, now shed and gone,
The Linnet lodged, and for us two
Chanted his pretty songs, when You
Had little voice or none.
“But now proud thoughts are in your breast—
What grief is mine you see.
Ah! would you think, even yet how blest
Together we might be!
Though of both leaf and flower bereft,
Some ornaments to me are left—
Rich store of scarlet hips is mine,
With which I in my humble way
Would deck you many a winter’s day,
A happy Eglantine!”
What more he said I cannot tell.
The stream came thundering down the dell,
And galloped loud and fast;
I listened, nor aught else could hear,
The Briar quaked—and much I fear,
Those accents were his last.
The Oak and the Broom
His simple truths did Andrew glean
Beside the babbling rills;
A careful student he had been
Among the woods and hills.
One winter’s night, when through the Trees
The wind was thundering, on his knees
His youngest born did Andrew hold:
And while the rest, a ruddy quire,
Were seated round their blazing fire,
This Tale the Shepherd told.
I saw a crag, a lofty stone
As ever tempest beat!
Out of its head an Oak had grown,
A Broom out of its feet.
The time was March, a cheerful noon—
The thaw-wind with the breath of June
Breathed gently frem the warm South-west;
When, in a voice sedate with age,
This Oak, half giant and half sage,
His neighbour thus addressed:
“Eight weary weeks, through rock and clay,
Along this mountain’s edge
The Frost hath wrought both night and day,
Wedge driving after wedge.
Look up! and think, above your head
What trouble surely will be bred;
Last night I heard a crash—’tis true,
The splinters took another road—
I see them yonder—what a load
For such a Thing as you!
“You are preparing as before
To deck your slender shape;
And yet, just three years back—no more—
You had a strange escape.
Down from yon Cliff a fragment broke,
It came, you know, with fire and smoke
And hitherward it bent its way.
This pond’rous Block was caught by me,
And o’er your head, as you may see,
’Tis hanging to this day!
“The Thing had better been asleep,
Whatever thing it were,
Or Breeze, or Bird, or Dog, or Sheep,
That first did plant you there.
For you and your green twigs decoy
The little witless Shepherd-boy
To come and slumber in your bower;
And, trust me, on some sultry noon,
Both you and he, Heaven knows how soon!
Will perish in one hour.
“From me this friendly warning take”—
The Broom began to doze,
And thus to keep herself awake
Did gently interpose:
“My thanks for your discourse are due;
That it is true, and more than true,
I know, and I have known it long;
Frail is the bond, by which we hold
Our being, be we young or old,
Wise, foolish, weak or strong.
“Disasters, do the best we can,
Will reach both great and small;
And he is oft the wisest man,
Who is not wise at all.
For me, why should I wish to roam?
This spot is my paternal home,
It is my pleasant Heritage;
My Father many a happy year
Here spread his careless blossoms, here
Attained a good old age.
“Even such as his may be my lot.
What cause have I to haunt
My heart with terrors? Am I not
In truth a favoured plant!
The Spring for me a garland weaves
Of yellow flowers and verdant leaves;
And, when the Frost is in the sky,
My branches are so fresh and gay
That You might look at me and say,
This Plant can never die.
“The Butterfly, all green and gold,
To me hath often flown,
Here in my Blossoms to behold
Wings lovely as his own.
When grass is chill with rain or dew,
Beneath my shade the mother Ewe
Lies with her infant Lamb; I see
The love they to each other make,
And the sweet joy, which they partake,
It is a joy to me.”
Her voice was blithe, her heart was light;
The Broom might have pursued
Her speech, until the stars of night
Their journey had renewed.
But in the branches of the Oak
Two Ravens now began to croak
Their nuptial song, a gladsome air;
And to her own green bower the breeze
That instant brought two stripling Bees
To feed and murmur there.
One night the Wind came from the North
And blew a furious blast;
At break of day I ventured forth,
And near the Cliff I passed.
The storm had fallen upon the Oak
And struck him with a mighty stroke,
And whirled and whirled him far away;
And in one hospitable Cleft
The little careless Broom was left
To live for many a day.
The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman
When a Northern Indian, from sickness, is unable to continue his journey with his companions, he is left behind, covered over with Deer-skins; and is supplied with water, food, and fuel, if the situation of the place will afford it. He is informed of the track which his companions intend to pursue, and if he is unable to follow, or overtake them, he perishes alone in the Desert; unless he should have the good fortune to fall in with some other Tribes of Indians. The females are equally, or still more, exposed to the same fate. See that very interesting work, Hearne’s Journey from Hudson’s Bay to the Northern Ocean. In the high Northern Latitudes, as the same writer informs us, when the Northern Lights vary their position in the air, they make a rustling and a crackling noise. This circumstance is alluded to in the first stanza of the following poem.
Before I see another day,
Oh let my body die away!
In sleep I heard the northern gleams;
The stars they were among my dreams;
In sleep did I behold the skies,
I saw the crackling flashes drive;
And yet they are upon my eyes,
And yet I am alive.
Before I see another day,
Oh let my body die away!
My fire is dead: it knew no pain;
Yet it is dead, and I remain.
All stiff with ice the ashes lie;
And they are dead, and I will die.
When I was well, I wished to live,
For clothes, for warmth, for food, and fire;
But they to me no joy can give,
No pleasure now, and no desire.
Then here contented will I lie!
Alone I cannot fear to die.
Alas! you might have dragged me on
Another day, a single one!
Too soon despair o’er me prevailed;
Too soon my heartless spirit failed;
When you were gone my limbs were stronger;
And oh how grievously I rue,
That, afterwards, a little longer,
My Friends, I did not follow you!
For strong and without pain I lay,
My Friends, when you were gone away.
My Child! they gave thee to another,
A woman who was not thy mother.
When from my arms my Babe they took,
On me how strangely did he look!
Through his whole body something ran,
A most strange something did I see;
—As if he strove to be a man,
That he might pull the sledge for me.
And then he stretched his arms, how wild!
Oh mercy! like a little child.
My little joy! my little pride!
In two days more I must have died.
Then do not weep and grieve for me;
I feel I must have died with thee.
Oh wind that o’er my head art flying
The way my Friends their course did bend,
I should not feel the pain of dying,
Could I with thee a message send!
Too soon, my Friends, you went away;
For I had many things to say.
I’ll follow you across the snow;
You travel heavily and slow:
In spite of all my weary pain,
I’ll look upon your tents again.
—My fire is dead, and snowy white
The water which beside it stood;
The wolf has come to me to-night,
And he has stolen away my food.
For ever left alone am I,
Then wherefore should I fear to die?
My journey will be shortly run,
I shall not see another sun;
I cannot lift my limbs to know
If they have any life or no.
My poor forsaken child! if I
For once could have thee close to me,
With happy heart I then should die,
And my last thoughts would happy be.
I feel my body die away,
I shall not see another day.
Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray:
And, when I crossed the Wild,
I chanced to see at break of day
The solitary Child.
No Mate, no comrade Lucy knew;
She dwelt on a wide Moor,
—The sweetest thing that ever grew
Beside a human door!
You yet may spy the Fawn at play,
The Hare upon the Green;
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray
Will never more be seen.
“To-night will be a stormy night—
You to the Town must go;
And take a lantern, Child, to light
Your Mother through the snow.”
“That, Father! will I gladly do;
’Tis scarcely afternoon—
The Minster-clock has just struck two,
And yonder is the Moon.”
At this the Father raised his hook
And snapped a faggot-band;
He plied his work, and Lucy took
The lantern in her hand.
Not blither is the mountain roe:
With many a wanton stroke
Her feet disperse the powdery snow,
That rises up like smoke.
The storm came on before its time:
She wandered up and down;
And many a hill did Lucy climb,
But never reached the Town.
The wretched Parents all that night
Went shouting far and wide;
But there was neither sound nor sight
To serve them for a guide.
At day-break on a hill they stood
That overlooked the Moor;
And thence they saw the Bridge of wood,
A furlong from their door.
And now they homeward turned, and cried
“In Heaven we all shall meet!”
—When in the snow the Mother spied
The print of Lucy’s feet.
Then downward from the steep hill’s edge
They tracked the footmarks small;
And through the broken hawthorn-hedge,
And by the long stone-wall:
And then an open field they crossed:
The marks were still the same;
They tracked them on, nor ever lost;
And to the Bridge they came.
They followed from the snowy bank
The footmarks, one by one,
Into the middle of the plank;
And further there was none.
—Yet some maintain that to this day
She is a living Child;
That you may see sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonesome Wild.
O’er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind;
And sings a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.
’Tis said, that some have died for love:
And here and there a church-yard grave is found
In the cold North’s unhallowed ground,
Because the wretched Man himself had slain,
His love was such a grievous pain.
And there is one whom I five years have known;
He dwells alone
Upon Helvellyn’s side:
He loved—the pretty Barbara died,
And thus he makes his moan:
Three years had Barbara in her grave been laid
When thus his moan he made:
“Oh move, thou Cottage, from behind that oak!
Or let the aged tree uprooted lie,
That in some other way yon smoke
May mount into the sky!
The clouds pass on; they from the heavens depart:
I look—the sky is empty space;
I know not what I trace;
But, when I cease to look, my hand is on my heart.
“O! what a weight is in these shades! Ye leaves,
When will that dying murmur be supprest?
Your sound my heart of peace bereaves,
It robs my heart of rest.
Thou Thrush, that singest loud and loud and free,
Into yon row of willows flit,
Upon that alder sit;
Or sing another song, or choose another tree.
“Roll back, sweet Rill! back to thy mountain bounds,
And there for ever be thy waters chained!
For thou dost haunt the air with sounds
That cannot be sustained;
If still beneath that pine-tree’s ragged bough
Headlong yon waterfall must come,
Oh let it then be dumb!—
Be any thing, sweet Rill, but that which thou art now.
“Thou Eglantine, whose arch so proudly towers,
(Even like the rainbow spanning half the vale)
Thou one fair shrub, oh! shed thy flowers,
And stir not in the gale.
For thus to see thee nodding in the air,
To see thy arch thus stretch and bend,
Thus rise and thus descend,
Disturbs me, till the sight is more than I can bear.”
The Man who makes this feverish complaint
Is one of giant stature, who could dance
Equipped from head to foot in iron mail.
Ah gentle Love! if ever thought was thine
To store up kindred hours for me, thy face
Turn from me, gentle Love! nor let me walk
Within the sound of Emma’s voice, or know
Such happiness as I have known today.
The Idle Shepherd-Boys
Or, Dungeon-Gill Force,15 a Pastoral
The valley rings with mirth and joy;
Among the hills the Echoes play
A never never ending song
To welcome in the May.
The Magpie chatters with delight;
The mountain Raven’s youngling Brood
Have left the Mother and the Nest;
And they go rambling east and west
In search of their own food;
Or through the glittering Vapors dart
In very wantonness of heart.
Beneath a rock, upon the grass,
Two Boys are sitting in the sun;
It seems they have no work to do,
Or that their work is done.
On pipes of sycamore they play
The fragments of a Christmas Hymn;
Or with that plant which in our dale
We call Stag-horn, or Fox’s Tail,
Their rusty Hats they trim:
And thus, as happy as the Day,
Those Shepherds wear the time away.
Along the river’s stony marge
The Sand-lark chants a joyous song;
The Thrush is busy in the wood,
And carols loud and strong.
A thousand Lambs are on the rocks,
All newly born! both earth and sky
Keep jubilee; and more than all,
Those Boys with their green Coronal;
They never hear the cry,
That plaintive cry! which up the hill
Comes from the depth of Dungeon-Gill.
Said Walter, leaping from the ground,
“Down to the stump of yon old yew
We’ll for our Whistles run a race.”
—Away the Shepherds flew.
They leapt—they ran—and when they came
Right opposite to Dungeon-Gill,
Seeing that he should lose the prize,
“Stop!” to his comrade Walter cries—
James stopped with no good will:
Said Walter then, “Your task is here,
’Twill keep you working half a year.
“Now cross where I shall cross—come on,
And follow me where I shall lead”—
The other took him at his word,
But did not like the deed.
It was a spot, which you may see
If ever you to Langdale go:
Into a chasm a mighty Block
Hath fallen, and made a Bridge of rock:
The gulph is deep below;
And in a bason black and small
Receives a lofty Waterfall.
With staff in hand across the cleft
The Challenger began his march;
And now, all eyes and feet, hath gained
The middle of the arch.
When list! he hears a piteous moan—
Again!—his heart within him dies—
His pulse is stopped, his breath is lost,
He totters, pale as any ghost,
And, looking down, he spies
A Lamb, that in the pool is pent
Within that black and frightful Rent.
The Lamb had slipped into the stream,
And safe without a bruise or wound
The Cataract had borne him down
Into the gulph profound.
His Dam had seen him when he fell,
She saw him down the torrent borne;
And, while with all a mother’s love
She from the lofty rocks above
Sent forth a cry forlorn,
The Lamb, still swimming round and round,
Made answer to that plaintive sound.
When he had learnt what thing it was,
That sent this rueful cry; I ween,
The Boy recovered heart, and told
The sight which he had seen.
Both gladly now deferred their task;
Nor was there wanting other aid—
A Poet, one who loves the brooks
Far better than the sages’ books,
By chance had thither strayed;
And there the helpless Lamb he found
By those huge rocks encompassed round.
He drew it gently from the pool,
And brought it forth into the light:
The Shepherds met him with his Charge,
An unexpected sight!
Into their arms the Lamb they took,
Said they, “He’s neither maimed nor scarred.”
Then up the steep ascent they hied,
And placed him at his Mother’s side;
And gently did the Bard
Those idle Shepherd-boys upbraid,
And bade them better mind their trade.
At the corner of Wood-street, when day-light appears,
There’s a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years:
Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard
In the silence of morning the song of the Bird.
’Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.
Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,
Down which she so often has tripped with her pail;
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove’s,
The one only Dwelling on earth that she loves.
She looks, and her Heart is in heaven: but they fade,
The mist and the river, the hill and the shade;
The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
And the colours have all passed away from her eyes.
For the Spot Where the Hermitage Stood on St. Herbert’s Island, Derwent-Water
If Thou in the dear love of some one Friend
Hast been so happy, that thou know’st what thoughts
Will, sometimes, in the happiness of love
Make the heart sick, then wilt thou reverence
This quiet spot.—St. Herbert hither came,
And here, for many seasons, from the world
Removed, and the affections of the world,
He dwelt in solitude.—But he had left
A Fellow-labourer, whom the good Man loved
As his own soul. And, when within his cave
Alone he knelt before the crucifix
While o’er the Lake the cataract of Lodore
Pealed to his orisons, and when he paced
Along the beach of this small isle and thought
Of his Companion, he would pray that both
Might die in the same moment. Nor in vain
So prayed he:—as our Chronicles report,
Though here the Hermit numbered his last days,
Far from St. Cuthbert his beloved Friend,
Those holy Men both died in the same hour.
Lines Written with a Pencil Upon a Stone in the Wall of the House (An Out-House) on the Island at Grasmere
Rude is this Edifice, and Thou hast seen
Buildings, albeit rude, that have maintained
Proportions more harmonious, and approached
To somewhat of a closer fellowship
With the ideal grace. Yet as it is
Do take it in good part; for he, the poor
Vitruvius of our village, had no help
From the great City; never on the leaves
Of red Morocco folio saw displayed
The skeletons and pre-existing ghosts
Of Beauties yet unborn, the rustic Box,
Snug Cot, with Coach-house, Shed and Hermitage.
It is a homely Pile, yet to these walls
The heifer comes in the snow-storm, and here
The new-dropped lamb finds shelter from the wind.
And hither does one Poet sometimes row
His Pinnace, a small vagrant Barge, up-piled
With plenteous store of heath and withered fern,
(A lading which he with his sickle cuts
Among the mountains,) and beneath this roof
He makes his summer couch, and here at noon
Spreads out his limbs, while, yet unshorn, the Sheep
Panting beneath the burthen of their wool
Lie round him, even as if they were a part
Of his own Household: nor, while from his bed
He through that door-place looks toward the lake
And to the stirring breezes, does he want
Creations lovely as the work of sleep,
Fair sights, and visions of romantic joy.
To a Sexton
Let thy wheel-barrow alone.
Wherefore, Sexton, piling still
In thy Bone-house bone on bone?
’Tis already like a hill
In a field of battle made,
Where three thousand skulls are laid.
—These died in peace each with the other,
Father, Sister, Friend, and Brother.
Mark the spot to which I point!
From this platform eight feet square
Take not even a finger-joint:
Andrew’s whole fire-side is there.
Here, alone, before thine eyes,
Simon’s sickly Daughter lies,
From weakness, now, and pain defended,
Whom he twenty winters tended.
Look but at the gardener’s pride—
How he glories, when he sees
Roses, Lilies, side by side,
Violets in families!
By the heart of Man, his tears,
By his hopes and by his fears,
Thou, old Grey-beard! art the Warden
Of a far superior garden.
Thus then, each to other dear,
Let them all in quiet lie,
Andrew there and Susan here,
Neighbours in mortality.
And, should I live through sun and rain
Seven widowed years without my Jane,
O Sexton, do not then remove her,
Let one grave hold the Lov’d and Lover!
“I hate that Andrew Jones: he’ll breed
His children up to waste and pillage.
I wish the press-gang or the drum
With its tantara sound, would come
And sweep him from the village!”
I said not this, because he loves
Through the long day to swear and tipple;
But for the poor dear sake of one
To whom a foul deed he had done,
A friendless Man, a travelling Cripple.
For this poor crawling helpless wretch
Some Horseman who was passing by
A penny on the ground had thrown;
But the poor Cripple was alone,
And could not stoop—no help was nigh.
Inch-thick the dust lay on the ground,
For it had long been droughty weather:
So with his staff the Cripple wrought
Among the dust till he had brought
The halfpennies together.
It chanced that Andrew passed that way
Just at that time; and there he found
The Cripple in the mid-day heat
Standing alone, and at his feet
He saw the penny on the ground.
He stooped and took the penny up:
And when the Cripple nearer drew,
Quoth Andrew, “Under half-a-crown,
What a man finds is all his own,
And so, my friend, good day to you.”
And hence I said, that Andrew’s boys
Will all be trained to waste and pillage;
And wished the press-gang, or the drum
With its tantara sound, would come
And sweep him from the village!
When Ruth was left half desolate
Her Father took another Mate;
And Ruth, not seven years old,
A slighted Child, at her own will
Went wandering over dale and hill,
In thoughtless freedom bold.
And she had made a Pipe of straw,
And from that oaten Pipe could draw
All sounds of winds and floods;
Had built a Bower upon the green,
As if she from her birth had been
An Infant of the woods.
Beneath her Father’s roof, alone
She seemed to live; her thoughts her own;
Herself her own delight:
Pleased with herself, nor sad nor gay,
She passed her time; and in this way
Grew up to Woman’s height.
There came a Youth from Georgia’s shore—
A military Casque he wore
With splendid feathers drest;
He brought them from the Cherokees;
The feathers nodded in the breeze,
And made a gallant crest.
From Indian blood you deem him sprung:
Ah no! he spake the English tongue,
And bore a Soldier’s name;
And, when America was free
From battle and from jeopardy,
He ’cross the ocean came.
With hues of genius on his cheek
In finest tones the Youth could speak.
—While he was yet a Boy
The moon, the glory of the sun,
And streams that murmur as they run,
Had been his dearest joy.
He was a lovely Youth! I guess
The panther in the wilderness
Was not so fair as he;
And when he chose to sport and play,
No dolphin ever was so gay
Upon the tropic sea.
Among the Indians he had fought;
And with him many tales he brought
Of pleasure and of fear;
Such tales as, told to any Maid
By such a Youth, in the green shade,
Were perilous to hear.
He told of Girls, a happy rout!
Who quit their fold with dance and shout,
Their pleasant Indian Town
To gather strawberries all day long,
Returning with a choral song
When day-light is gone down.
He spake of plants divine and strange
That every hour their blossoms change,
Ten thousand lovely hues!
With budding, fading, faded flowers
They stand the wonder of the bowers
From morn to evening dews.
Of march and ambush, siege and fight,
Then did he tell; and with delight
The heart of Ruth would ache;
Wild histories they were, and dear:
But ’twas a thing of heaven to hear
When of himself he spake!
Sometimes most earnestly he said;
“O Ruth! I have been worse than dead:
False thoughts, thoughts bold and vain,
Encompassed me on every side
When I, in confidence and pride,
Had crossed the Atlantic Main.
“It was a fresh and glorious world,
A banner bright that was unfurled
Before me suddenly:
I looked upon those hills and plains,
And seemed as if let loose from chains
To live at liberty.
“But wherefore speak of this? for now,
Sweet Ruth! with thee, I know not how,
I feel my spirit burn—
Even as the east when day comes forth;
And to the west, and south, and north,
The morning doth return.
“It is a purer, better mind:
O Maiden innocent and kind,
What sights I might have seen!”
Even now upon my eyes they break!
—And he again began to speak
Of Lands where he had been.
He told of the Magnolia,16 spread
High as a cloud, high over head!
The Cypress and her spire,
—Of flowers17 that with one scarlet gleam
Cover a hundred leagues, and seem
To set the hills on fire.
The Youth of green savannahs spake,
And many an endless, endless lake,
With all its fairy crowds
Of islands, that together lie
As quietly as spots of sky
Among the evening clouds.
And then he said “How sweet it were
A fisher or a hunter there,
A gardener in the shade,
Still wandering with an easy mind
To build a household fire, and find
A home in every glade!
“What days and what sweet years! Ah me!
Our life were life indeed, with thee
So passed in quiet bliss,
And all the while,” said he, “to know
That we were in a world of woe,
On such an earth as this!”
And then he sometimes interwove
Dear thoughts about a Father’s love,
“For there,” said he, “are spun
Around the heart such tender ties,
That our own children to our eyes
Are dearer than the sun.
“Sweet Ruth! and could you go with me
My helpmate in the woods to be,
Our shed at night to rear;
Or run, my own adopted Bride,
A sylvan Huntress at my side,
And drive the flying deer!
“Beloved Ruth!”—No more he said.
Sweet Ruth alone at midnight shed
A solitary tear.
She thought again—and did agree
With him to sail across the sea,
And drive the flying deer.
“And now, as fitting is and right,
We in the Church our faith will plight,
A Husband and a Wife.”
Even so they did; and I may say
That to sweet Ruth that happy day
Was more than human life.
Through dream and vision did she sink,
Delighted all the while to think
That, on those lonesome floods,
And green savannahs, she should share
His board with lawful joy, and bear
His name in the wild woods.
But, as you have before been told,
This Stripling, sportive, gay, and bold,
And with his dancing crest
So beautiful, through savage lands
Had roamed about with vagrant bands
Of Indians in the West.
The wind, the tempest roaring high,
The tumult of a tropic sky,
Might well be dangerous food
For him, a Youth to whom was given
So much of earth so much of Heaven,
And such impetuous blood.
Whatever in those Climes he found
Irregular in sight or sound
Did to his mind impart
A kindred impulse, seemed allied
To his own powers, and justified
The workings of his heart.
Nor less to feed voluptuous thought
The beauteous forms of nature wrought,
Fair trees and lovely flowers;
The breezes their own languor lent;
The stars had feelings, which they sent
Into those magic bowers.
Yet, in his worst pursuits, I ween
That sometimes there did intervene
Pure hopes of high intent;
For passions linked to forms so fair
And stately needs must have their share
Of noble sentiment.
But ill he lived, much evil saw
With men to whom no better law
Nor better life was known;
Deliberately and undeceived
Those wild men’s vices he received,
And gave them back his own.
His genius and his moral frame
Were thus impaired, and he became
The slave of low desires:
A Man who without self-controul
Would seek what the degraded soul
And yet he with no feigned delight
Had wooed the maiden, day and night
Had loved her, night and morn:
What could he less than love a Maid
Whose heart with so much nature played?
So kind and so forlorn!
But now the pleasant dream was gone;
No hope, no wish remained, not one,
They stirred him now no more;
New objects did new pleasure give,
And once again he wished to live
As lawless as before.
Meanwhile, as thus with him it fared,
They for the voyage were prepared,
And went to the sea-shore;
But, when they thither came, the Youth
Deserted his poor Bride, and Ruth
Could never find him more.
“God help thee Ruth!”—Such pains she had
That she in half a year was mad
And in a prison housed;
And there, exulting in her wrongs,
Among the music of her songs
She fearfully caroused.
Yet sometimes milder hours she knew,
Nor wanted sun, nor rain, nor dew,
Nor pastimes of the May,
—They all were with her in her cell;
And a wild brook with cheerful knell
Did o’er the pebbles play.
When Ruth three seasons thus had lain
There came a respite to her pain,
She from her prison fled;
But of the Vagrant none took thought;
And where it liked her best she sought
Her shelter and her bread.
Among the fields she breathed again:
The master-current of her brain
Ran permanent and free;
And, coming to the banks of Tone,18
There did she rest; and dwell alone
Under the greenwood tree.
The engines of her pain, the tools
That shaped her sorrow, rocks and pools,
And airs that gently stir
The vernal leaves, she loved them still,
Nor ever taxed them with the ill
Which had been done to her.
A Barn her winter bed supplies;
But till the warmth of summer skies
And summer days is gone,
(And all do in this tale agree)
She sleeps beneath the greenwood tree,
And other home hath none.
An innocent life, yet far astray!
And Ruth will, long before her day,
Be broken down and old.
Sore aches she needs must have! but less
Of mind, than body’s wretchedness,
From damp, and rain, and cold.
If she is pressed by want of food,
She from her dwelling in the wood
Repairs to a road-side;
And there she begs at one steep place,
Where up and down with easy pace
The horsemen-travellers ride.
That oaten Pipe of hers is mute,
Or thrown away; but with a flute
Her loneliness she cheers:
This flute, made of a hemlock stalk,
At evening in his homeward walk
The Quantock Woodman hears.
I, too, have passed her on the hills
Setting her little water-mills
By spouts and fountains wild—
Such small machinery as she turned
Ere she had wept, ere she had mourned,
A young and happy Child!
Farewell! and when thy days are told,
Ill-fated Ruth! in hallowed mould
Thy corpse shall buried be;
For thee a funeral bell shall ring,
And all the congregation sing
A Christian psalm for thee.
Lines Written with a Slate-Pencil, Upon a Stone, the Largest of a Heap Lying Near a Deserted Quarry, Upon One of the Islands at Rydale
Stranger! this hillock of misshapen stones
Is not a ruin of the antient time,
Nor, as perchance thou rashly deem’st, the Cairn
Of some old British Chief: ’tis nothing more
Than the rude embryo of a little Dome
Or Pleasure-house, once destined to be built
Among the birch-trees of this rocky isle.
But, as it chanced, Sir William having learned
That from the shore a full-grown man might wade,
And make himself a freeman of this spot
At any hour he chose, the Knight forthwith
Desisted, and the quarry and the mound
Are monuments of his unfinished task.—
The block on which these lines are traced, perhaps,
Was once selected as the corner-stone
Of the intended Pile, which would have been
Some quaint odd play-thing of elaborate skill,
So that, I guess, the linnet and the thrush,
And other little Builders who dwell here,
Had wondered at the work. But blame him not,
For old Sir William was a gentle Knight
Bred in this vale, to which he appertained
With all his ancestry. Then peace to him,
And for the outrage which he had devised
Entire forgiveness!—But if thou art one
On fire with thy impatience to become
An inmate of these mountains, if, disturbed
By beautiful conceptions, thou hast hewn
Out of the quiet rock the elements
Of thy trim mansion destined soon to blaze
In snow-white glory, think again, and, taught
By old Sir William and his quarry, leave
Thy fragments to the bramble and the rose;
There let the vernal Slow-worm sun himself,
And let the Redbreast hop from stone to stone.
In the School of ⸻ is a Tablet, on which are inscribed, in gilt letters, the names of the several persons who have been Schoolmasters there since the foundation of the School, with the time at which they entered upon and quitted their office. Opposite one of those names the Author wrote the following lines.
If Nature, for a favourite Child
In thee hath tempered so her clay,
That every hour thy heart runs wild,
Yet never once doth go astray,
Read o’er these lines; and then review
This tablet, that thus humbly rears
In such diversity of hue
Its history of two hundred years.
—When through this little wreck of fame,
Cypher and syllable! thine eye
Has travelled down to Matthew’s name,
Pause with no common sympathy.
And, if a sleeping tear should wake,
Then be it neither checked nor stayed:
For Matthew a request I make
Which for himself he had not made.
Poor Matthew, all his frolics o’er,
Is silent as a standing pool;
Far from the chimney’s merry roar,
And murmur of the village school.
The sighs which Matthew heaved were sighs
Of one tired out with fun and madness;
The tears which came to Matthew’s eyes
Were tears of light, the oil of gladness.
Yet, sometimes, when the secret cup
Of still and serious thought went round,
It seemed as if he drank it up—
He felt with spirit so profound.
—Thou soul of God’s best earthly mould!
Thou happy soul! and can it be
That these two words of glittering gold
Are all that must remain to thee?
The Two April Mornings
We walked along, while bright and red
Uprose the morning sun;
And Matthew stopped, he looked, and said,
“The will of God be done!”
A village Schoolmaster was he,
With hair of glittering gray;
As blithe a man as you could see
On a spring holiday.
And on that morning, through the grass,
And by the steaming rills,
We travelled merrily, to pass
A day among the hills.
“Our work,” said I, “was well begun;
Then, from thy breast what thought,
Beneath so beautiful a sun,
So sad a sigh has brought?”
A second time did Matthew stop;
And fixing still his eye
Upon the eastern mountain-top,
To me he made reply:
“Yon cloud with that long purple cleft
Brings fresh into my mind
A day like this which I have left
Full thirty years behind.
“And just above yon slope of corn
Such colours, and no other
Were in the sky, that April morn,
Of this the very brother.
“With rod and line my silent sport
I plied by Derwent’s wave;
And, coming to the church, stopp’d short
Beside my daughter’s grave.
“Nine summers had she scarcely seen,
The pride of all the vale;
And then she sung;—she would have been
A very nightingale.
“Six feet in earth my Emma lay;
And yet I loved her more,
For so it seemed, than till that day
I e’er had loved before.
“And turning from her grave, I met
Beside the church-yard Yew
A blooming Girl, whose hair was wet
With points of morning dew.
“A basket on her head she bare;
Her brow was smooth and white:
To see a Child so very fair,
It was a pure delight!
“No fountain from its rocky cave
E’er tripped with foot so free;
She seemed as happy as a wave
That dances on the sea.
“There came from me a sigh of pain
Which I could ill confine;
I looked at her and looked again:
—And did not wish her mine.”
Matthew is in his grave, yet now
Methinks I see him stand,
As at that moment, with his bough
Of wilding in his hand.
We talked with open heart, and tongue
Affectionate and true;
A pair of Friends, though I was young,
And Matthew seventy-two.
We lay beneath a spreading oak,
Beside a mossy seat;
And from the turf a fountain broke,
And gurgled at our feet.
“Now, Matthew! let us try to match
This water’s pleasant tune
With some old Border-song, or Catch
That suits a summer’s noon.
“Or of the Church-clock and the chimes
Sing here beneath the shade,
That half-mad thing of witty rhymes
Which you last April made!”
In silence Matthew lay, and eyed
The spring beneath the tree;
And thus the dear old man replied,
The gray-haired man of glee:
“Down to the vale this water steers,
How merrily it goes!
’Twill murmur on a thousand years,
And flow as now it flows.
“And here, on this delightful day,
I cannot choose but think
How oft, a vigorous man, I lay
Beside this Fountain’s brink.
“My eyes are dim with childish tears,
My heart is idly stirred,
For the same sound is in my ears
Which in those days I heard.
“Thus fares it still in our decay:
And yet the wiser mind
Mourns less for what age takes away
Than what it leaves behind.
“The Blackbird in the summer trees,
The Lark upon the hill,
Let loose their carols when they please,
Are quiet when they will.
“With Nature never do they wage
A foolish strife; they see
A happy youth, and their old age
Is beautiful and free:
“But we are pressed by heavy laws;
And often, glad no more,
We wear a face of joy, because
We have been glad of yore.
“If there is one who need bemoan
His kindred laid in earth,
The household hearts that were his own,
It is the man of mirth.
“My days, my Friend, are almost gone,
My life has been approved,
And many love me; but by none
Am I enough beloved.”
“Now both himself and me he wrongs,
The man who thus complains!
I live and sing my idle songs
Upon these happy plains,
“And, Matthew, for thy Children dead
I’ll be a son to thee!”
At this he grasped his hands, and said
“Alas! that cannot be.”
We rose up from the fountain-side;
And down the smooth descent
Of the green sheep-track did we glide;
And through the wood we went;
And, ere we came to Leonard’s Rock,
He sang those witty rhymes
About the crazy old church clock
And the bewildered chimes.
⸻⸻⸻⸺It seems a day,
(I speak of one from many singled out)
One of those heavenly days which cannot die,
When forth I sallied from our Cottage-door,19
And with a wallet o’er my shoulder slung,
A nutting crook in hand, I turned my steps
Towards the distant woods, a Figure quaint,
Tricked out in proud disguise of Beggar’s weeds
Put on for the occasion, by advice
And exhortation of my frugal Dame.
Motley accoutrement! of power to smile
At thorns, and brakes, and brambles, and, in truth,
More ragged than need was. Among the woods,
And o’er the pathless rocks, I forced my way
Until, at length, I came to one dear nook
Unvisited, where not a broken bough
Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign
Of devastation, but the hazels rose
Tall and erect, with milk-white clusters hung,
A virgin scene!—A little while I stood,
Breathing with such suppression of the heart
As joy delights in; and with wise restraint
Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed
The banquet, or beneath the trees I sate
Among the flowers, and with the flowers I played;
A temper known to those, who, after long
And weary expectation, have been blessed
With sudden happiness beyond all hope.—
Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves
The violets of five seasons re-appear
And fade, unseen by any human eye;
Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on
For ever, and I saw the sparkling foam,
And with my cheek on one of those green stones
That, fleeced with moss, beneath the shady trees,
Lay round me, scattered like a flock of sheep,
I heard the murmur and the murmuring sound,
In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay
Tribute to ease; and, of its joy secure,
The heart luxuriates with indifferent things,
Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones,
And on the vacant air. Then up I rose,
And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash
And merciless ravage; and the shady nook
Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower,
Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up
Their quiet being: and, unless I now
Confound my present feelings with the past,
Even then, when from the bower I turned away
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings,
I felt a sense of pain when I beheld
The silent trees and the intruding sky.—
Then, dearest Maiden! move along these shades
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand
Touch—for there is a Spirit in the woods.
Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower
Three years she grew in sun and shower,
Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower
On earth was never sown;
This Child I to myself will take;
She shall be mine, and I will make
A Lady of my own.
“Myself will to my darling be
Both law and impulse; and with me
The Girl, in rock and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
Shall feel an overseeing power
To kindle or restrain.
“She shall be sportive as the Fawn
That wild with glee across the lawn
Or up the mountain springs;
And hers shall be the breathing balm,
And hers the silence and the calm
Of mute insensate things.
“The floating Clouds their state shall lend
To her; for her the willow bend;
Nor shall she fail to see
Even in the motions of the Storm
Grace that shall mould the Maiden’s form
By silent sympathy.
“The Stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place
Where Rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face.
“And vital feelings of delight
Shall rear her form to stately height,
Her virgin bosom swell;
Such thoughts to Lucy I will give
While she and I together live
Here in this happy Dell.”
Thus Nature spake—The work was done—
How soon my Lucy’s race was run!
She died, and left to me
This heath, this calm, and quiet scene;
The memory of what has been,
And never more will be.
The dew was falling fast, the stars began to blink;
I heard a voice; it said, “Drink, pretty Creature, drink!”
And, looking o’er the hedge, before me I espied
A snow-white mountain Lamb with a Maiden at its side.
No other sheep were near, the Lamb was all alone,
And by a slender cord was tethered to a stone;
With one knee on the grass did the little Maiden kneel
While to that Mountain Lamb she gave its evening meal.
The Lamb while from her hand he thus his supper took
Seemed to feast with head and ears; and his tail with pleasure shook.
“Drink, pretty Creature, drink,” she said in such a tone
That I almost received her heart into my own.
’Twas little Barbara Lewthwaite, a Child of beauty rare!
I watched them with delight, they were a lovely pair.
Now with her empty Can the Maiden turned away;
But ere ten yards were gone her footsteps did she stay.
Towards the Lamb she looked; and from that shady place
I unobserved could see the workings of her face:
If Nature to her tongue could measured numbers bring,
Thus, thought I, to her Lamb that little Maid might sing.
“What ails thee, Young One? What? Why pull so at thy cord?
Is it not well with thee? Well both for bed and board?
Thy plot of grass is soft, and green as grass can be;
Rest, little Young One, rest; what is’t that aileth thee?
“What is it thou wouldst seek? What is wanting to thy heart?
Thy limbs are they not strong? And beautiful thou art:
This grass is tender grass; these flowers they have no peers;
And that green corn all day is rustling in thy ears!
“If the Sun be shining hot, do but stretch thy woollen chain,
This beech is standing by, its covert thou canst gain;
For rain and mountain storms! the like thou need’st not fear—
The rain and storm are things which scarcely can come here.
“Rest, little Young One, rest; thou hast forgot the day
When my Father found thee first in places far away;
Many flocks were on the hills, but thou wert owned by none;
And thy mother from thy side for evermore was gone.
“He took thee in his arms, and in pity brought thee home:
A blessed day for thee! then whither wouldst thou roam?
A faithful Nurse thou hast, the Dam that did thee yean
Upon the mountain tops no kinder could have been.
“Thou know’st that twice a day I have brought thee in this Can
Fresh water from the brook as clear as ever ran:
And twice in the day when the ground is wet with dew
I bring thee draughts of milk, warm milk it is and new.
“Thy limbs will shortly be twice as stout as they are now,
Then I’ll yoke thee to my cart like a pony in the plough;
My Playmate thou shalt be; and when the wind is cold
Our hearth shall be thy bed, our house shall be thy fold.
“It will not, will not rest!—poor Creature, can it be
That ’tis thy mother’s heart which is working so in thee?
Things that I know not of belike to thee are dear,
And dreams of things which thou canst neither see nor hear.
“Alas, the mountain tops that look so green and fair!
I’ve heard of fearful winds and darkness that come there;
The little Brooks that seem all pastime and all play,
When they are angry, roar like Lions for their prey.
“Here thou need’st not dread the raven in the sky;
Night and day thou art safe—our cottage is hard by.
Why bleat so after me? Why pull so at thy chain?
Sleep—and at break of day I will come to thee again!”
—As homeward through the lane I went with lazy feet,
This song to myself did I oftentimes repeat;
And it seemed, as I retraced the ballad line by line,
That but half of it was hers, and one half of it was mine.
Again, and once again did I repeat the song;
“Nay” said I, “more than half to the Damsel must belong,
For she looked with such a look, and she spake with such a tone,
That I almost received her heart into my own.”
A fig for your languages, German and Norse!
Let me have the song of the Kettle;
And the tongs and the poker, instead of that Horse
That gallops away with such fury and force
On this dreary dull plate of black metal.
Our earth is no doubt made of excellent stuff;
But her pulses beat slower and slower:
The weather in Forty was cutting and rough,
And then, as Heaven knows, the Glass stood low enough;
And now it is four degrees lower.
Here’s a Fly, a disconsolate creature, perhaps
A child of the field, or the grove;
And, sorrow for him! this dull treacherous heat
Has seduced the poor fool from his winter retreat,
And he creeps to the edge of my stove.
Alas! how he fumbles about the domains
Which this comfortless oven environ!
He cannot find out in what track he must crawl,
Now back to the tiles, and now back to the wall,
And now on the brink of the iron.
Stock-still there he stands like a traveller bemazed;
The best of his skill he has tried;
His feelers methinks I can see him put forth
To the East and the West, and the South and the North;
But he finds neither Guide-post nor Guide.
See! his spindles sink under him, foot, leg and thigh;
His eyesight and hearing are lost;
Between life and death his blood freezes and thaws;
And his two pretty pinions of blue dusky gauze
Are glued to his sides by the frost.
No Brother, no Friend has he near him—while I
Can draw warmth from the cheek of my Love;
As blest and as glad in this desolate gloom,
As if green summer grass were the floor of my room,
And woodbines were hanging above.
Yet, God is my witness, thou small helpless Thing!
Thy life I would gladly sustain
Till summer comes up from the South, and with crowds
Of thy brethren a march thou shouldst sound through the clouds,
And back to the forests again.
The Childless Father
“Up, Timothy, up with your Staff and away!
Not a soul in the village this morning will stay;
The Hare has just started from Hamilton’s grounds,
And Skiddaw is glad with the cry of the hounds.”
—Of coats and of jackets gray, scarlet and green,
On the slopes of the pastures all colours were seen;
With their comely blue aprons, and caps white as snow,
The Girls on the hills made a holiday show.
The bason of box-wood,20 just six months before,
Had stood on the table at Timothy’s door;
A Coffin through Timothy’s threshold had passed;
One Child did it bear, and that Child was his last.
Now fast up the dell came the noise and the fray,
The horse and the horn, and the hark! hark away!
Old Timothy took up his staff, and he shut
With a leisurely motion the door of his hut.
Perhaps to himself at that moment he said,
“The key I must take, for my Ellen is dead.”
But of this in my ears not a word did he speak,
And he went to the chase with a tear on his cheek.
The Old Cumberland Beggar
The class of Beggars to which the Old Man here described belongs, will probably soon be extinct. It consisted of poor, and, mostly, old and infirm persons, who confined themselves to a stated round in their neighbourhood, and had certain fixed days, on which, at different houses, they regularly received alms, sometimes in money, but mostly in provisions.
I saw an aged beggar in my walk,
And he was seated by the highway side
On a low structure of rude masonry
Built at the foot of a huge hill, that they
Who lead their horses down the steep rough road
May thence remount at ease. The aged Man
Had placed his staff across the broad smooth stone
That overlays the pile, and from a bag
All white with flour, the dole of village dames,
He drew his scraps and fragments, one by one,
And scanned them with a fixed and serious look
Of idle computation. In the sun,
Upon the second step of that small pile,
Surrounded by those wild unpeopled hills,
He sat, and ate his food in solitude:
And ever, scattered from his palsied hand,
That, still attempting to prevent the waste,
Was baffled still, the crumbs in little showers
Fell on the ground, and the small mountain birds,
Not venturing yet to peck their destined meal,
Approached within the length of half his staff.
Him from my childhood have I known; and then
He was so old, he seems not older now;
He travels on, a solitary Man,
So helpless in appearance, that for him
The sauntering Horseman-traveller does not throw
With careless hand his alms upon the ground,
But stops, that he may safely lodge the coin
Within the old Man’s hat; nor quits him so,
But still when he has given his horse the rein
Towards the aged Beggar turns a look,
Sidelong and half-reverted. She who tends
The Toll-gate, when in summer at her door
She turns her wheel, if on the road she sees
The aged Beggar coming, quits her work,
And lifts the latch for him that he may pass.
The Post-boy, when his rattling wheels o’ertake
The aged Beggar in the woody lane,
Shouts to him from behind, and, if perchance
The old Man does not change his course, the Boy
Turns with less noisy wheels to the road-side,
And passes gently by, without a curse
Upon his lips, or anger at his heart.
He travels on, a solitary Man,
His age has no companion. On the ground
His eyes are turned, and, as he moves along,
They move along the ground; and, evermore,
Instead of common and habitual sight
Of fields with rural works, of hill and dale,
And the blue sky, one little span of earth
Is all his prospect. Thus, from day to day,
Bowbent, his eyes for ever on the ground,
He plies his weary journey; seeing still,
And never knowing that he sees, some straw,
Some scattered leaf, or marks which, in one track,
The nails of cart or chariot wheel have left
Impressed on the white road, in the same line,
At distance still the same. Poor Traveller!
His staff trails with him; scarcely do his feet
Disturb the summer dust; he is so still
In look and motion, that the cottage curs,
Ere he have passed the door, will turn away,
Weary of barking at him. Boys and Girls,
The vacant and the busy, Maids and Youths,
And Urchins newly breeched all pass him by:
Him even the slow-paced Wagon leaves behind.
But deem not this Man useless.—Statesmen! ye
Who are so restless in your wisdom, ye
Who have a broom still ready in your hands
To rid the world of nuisances; ye proud,
Heart-swoln, while in your pride ye contemplate
Your talents, power, and wisdom, deem him not
A burthen of the earth. ’Tis Nature’s law
That none, the meanest of created things,
Of forms created the most vile and brute,
The dullest or most noxious, should exist
Divorced from good—a spirit and pulse of good,
A life and soul to every mode of being
Inseparably linked. While thus he creeps
From door to door, the Villagers in him
Behold a record which together binds
Past deeds and offices of charity,
Else unremembered, and so keeps alive
The kindly mood in hearts which lapse of years,
And that half-wisdom half-experience gives,
Make slow to feel, and by sure steps resign
To selfishness and cold oblivious cares.
Among the farms and solitary huts,
Hamlets and thinly-scattered villages,
Where’er the aged Beggar takes his rounds,
The mild necessity of use compels
To acts of love; and habit does the work
Of reason; yet prepares that after joy
Which reason cherishes. And thus the soul,
By that sweet taste of pleasure unpursued,
Doth find itself insensibly disposed
To virtue and true goodness. Some there are,
By their good works exalted, lofty minds
And meditative, authors of delight
And happiness, which to the end of time
Will live, and spread, and kindle; minds like these,
In childhood, from this solitary Being,
This helpless Wanderer, have perchance received
(A thing more precious far than all that books
Or the solicitudes of love can do!)
That first mild touch of sympathy and thought,
In which they found their kindred with a world
Where want and sorrow were. The easy Man
Who sits at his own door, and, like the pear
Which overhangs his head from the green wall,
Feeds in the sunshine; the robust and young,
The prosperous and unthinking, they who live
Sheltered, and flourish in a little grove
Of their own kindred, all behold in him
A silent monitor, which on their minds
Must needs impress a transitory thought
Of self-congratulation, to the heart
Of each recalling his peculiar boons,
His charters and exemptions; and, perchance,
Though he to no one give the fortitude
And circumspection needful to preserve
His present blessings, and to husband up
The respite of the season, he, at least,
And ’tis no vulgar service, makes them felt.
Yet further.—Many, I believe, there are
Who live a life of virtuous decency,
Men who can hear the Decalogue and feel
No self-reproach; who of the moral law
Established in the land where they abide
Are strict observers; and not negligent,
Meanwhile, in any tenderness of heart
Or act of love to those with whom they dwell,
Their kindred, and the children of their blood.
Praise be to such, and to their slumbers peace!
—But of the poor man ask, the abject poor,
Go and demand of him, if there be here
In this cold abstinence from evil deeds,
And these inevitable charities,
Wherewith to satisfy the human soul?
No—Man is dear to Man; the poorest poor
Long for some moments in a weary life
When they can know and feel that they have been
Themselves the fathers and the dealers out
Of some small blessings, have been kind to such
As needed kindness, for this single cause,
That we have all of us one human heart.
—Such pleasure is to one kind Being known;
My Neighbour, when with punctual care, each week
Duly as Friday comes, though prest herself
By her own wants, she from her chest of meal
Takes one unsparing handful for the scrip
Of this old Mendicant, and, from her door
Returning with exhilarated heart,
Sits by her fire and builds her hope in heaven.
Then let him pass, a blessing on his head!
And while in that vast solitude to which
The tide of things has led him, he appears
To breathe and live but for himself alone,
Unblamed, uninjured, let him bear about
The good which the benignant law of Heaven
Has hung around him; and, while life is his,
Still let him prompt the unlettered Villagers
To tender offices and pensive thoughts.
Then let him pass, a blessing on his head!
And, long as he can wander, let him breathe
The freshness of the valleys; let his blood
Struggle with frosty air and winter snows;
And let the chartered wind that sweeps the heath
Beat his gray locks against his withered face.
Reverence the hope whose vital anxiousness
Gives the last human interest to his heart.
May never House, misnamed of Industry!
Make him a captive! for that pent-up din,
Those life-consuming sounds that clog the air,
Be his the natural silence of old age!
Let him be free of mountain solitudes;
And have around him, whether heard or not,
The pleasant melody of woodland birds.
Few are his pleasures; if his eyes, which now
Have been so long familiar with the earth,
No more behold the horizontal sun
Rising or setting, let the light at least
Find a free entrance to their languid orbs.
And let him, where and when he will, sit down
Beneath the trees, or by the grassy bank
Of high-way side, and with the little birds
Share his chance-gathered meal; and, finally,
As in the eye of Nature he has lived,
So in the eye of Nature let him die.
There’s George Fisher, Charles Fleming, and Reginald Shore,
Three rosy-cheeked School-boys, the highest not more
Than the height of a Counsellor’s bag;
To the top of Great How21 did it please them to climb;
And there they built up, without mortar or lime,
A Man on the peak of the crag.
They built him of stones gathered up as they lay;
They built him and christened him all in one day,
An Urchin both vigorous and hale;
And so without scruple they called him Ralph Jones.
Now Ralph is renowned for the length of his bones;
The Magog of Legberthwaite dale.
Just half a week after, the wind sallied forth,
And, in anger or merriment, out of the North
Coming on with a terrible pother,
From the peak of the crag blew the Giant away.
And what did these School-boys?—The very next day
They went and they built up another.
A Poet’s Epitaph
Art thou a Statesman, in the van
Of public business trained and bred?
—First learn to love one living man;
Then mayst thou think upon the dead.
A Lawyer art thou?—draw not nigh;
Go, carry to some other place
The hardness of thy coward eye,
The falsehood of thy sallow face.
Art thou a Man of purple cheer?
A rosy Man, right plump to see?
Approach; yet, Doctor, not too near:
This grave no cushion is for thee.
Art thou a man of gallant pride,
A Soldier, and no man of chaff?
Welcome!—but lay thy sword aside,
And lean upon a Peasant’s staff.
Physician art thou? One, all eyes,
Philosopher! a fingering slave,
One that would peep and botanize
Upon his mother’s grave?
Wrappt closely in thy sensual fleece
O turn aside, and take, I pray,
That he below may rest in peace,
Thy pin-point of a soul away!
—A Moralist perchance appears;
Led, Heaven knows how! to this poor sod:
And He has neither eyes nor ears;
Himself his world, and his own God;
One to whose smooth-rubbed soul can cling
Nor form, nor feeling, great nor small;
A reasoning, self-sufficient thing,
An intellectual All in All!
Shut close the door; press down the latch;
Sleep in thy intellectual crust;
Nor lose ten tickings of thy watch
Near this unprofitable dust.
But who is He, with modest looks,
And clad in homely russet brown?
He murmurs near the running brooks
A music sweeter than their own.
He is retired as noontide dew,
Or fountain in a noonday grove;
And you must love him, ere to you
He will seem worthy of your love.
The outward shows of sky and earth,
Of hill and valley, he has viewed;
And impulses of deeper birth
Have come to him in solitude.
In common things that round us lie
Some random truths he can impart,
—The harvest of a quiet eye
That broods and sleeps on his own heart.
But he is weak, both Man and Boy,
Hath been an idler in the land;
Contented if he might enjoy
The things which others understand.
—Come hither in thy hour of strength;
Come, weak as is a breaking wave!
Here stretch thy body at full length;
Or build thy house upon this grave.
Between two sister moorland rills
There is a spot that seems to lie
Sacred to flowrets of the hills,
And sacred to the sky.
And in this smooth and open dell
There is a tempest-stricken tree;
A corner-stone by lightning cut,
The last stone of a cottage hut;
And in this dell you see
A thing no storm can e’er destroy,
The shadow of a Danish Boy.
In clouds above, the Lark is heard,
He sings his blithest and his best;
But in this lonesome nook the Bird
Did never build his nest.
No Beast, no Bird hath here his home;
The Bees borne on the breezy air
Pass high above those fragrant bells
To other flowers, to other dells,
Nor ever linger there.
The Danish Boy walks here alone:
The lovely dell is all his own.
A spirit of noon day is he,
He seems a Form of flesh and blood;
Nor piping Shepherd shall he be,
Nor Herd-boy of the wood.
A regal vest of fur he wears,
In colour like a raven’s wing;
It fears not rain, nor wind, nor dew;
But in the storm ’tis fresh and blue
As budding pines in Spring;
His helmet has a vernal grace,
Fresh as the bloom upon his face.
A harp is from his shoulder slung:
He rests the harp upon his knee;
And there in a forgotten tongue
He warbles melody.
Of flocks upon the neighbouring hills
He is the darling and the joy;
And often, when no cause appears,
The mountain ponies prick their ears,
They hear the Danish Boy,
While in the dell he sits alone
Beside the tree and corner-stone.
There sits he: in his face you spy
No trace of a ferocious air,
Nor ever was a cloudless sky
So steady or so fair.
The lovely Danish Boy is blest
And happy in his flowery cove:
From bloody deeds his thoughts are far;
And yet he warbles songs of war;
They seem like songs of love,
For calm and gentle is his mien;
Like a dead Boy he is serene.
Poems on the Naming of Places
By Persons resident in the country and attached to rural objects, many places will be found unnamed or of unknown names, where little Incidents will have occurred, or feelings been experienced, which will have given to such places a private and peculiar interest. From a wish to give some sort of record to such Incidents, or renew the gratification of such Feelings, Names have been given to Places by the Author and some of his Friends, and the following Poems written in consequence.
It was an April morning: fresh and clear
The Rivulet, delighting in its strength,
Ran with a young man’s speed; and yet the voice
Of waters which the winter had supplied
Was softened down into a vernal tone.
The spirit of enjoyment and desire,
And hopes and wishes, from all living things
Went circling, like a multitude of sounds.
The budding groves appeared as if in haste
To spur the steps of June; as if their shades
Of various green were hindrances that stood
Between them and their object: yet, meanwhile,
There was such deep contentment in the air
That every naked ash, and tardy tree
Yet leafless, seemed as though the countenance
With which it looked on this delightful day
Were native to the summer.—Up the brook
I roamed in the confusion of my heart,
Alive to all things and forgetting all.
At length I to a sudden turning came
In this continuous glen, where down a rock
The stream, so ardent in its course before,
Sent forth such sallies of glad sound, that all
Which I till then had heard, appeared the voice
Of common pleasure: beast and bird, the Lamb,
The Shepherd’s Dog, the Linnet and the Thrush
Vied with this Waterfall, and made a song
Which, while I listened, seemed like the wild growth
Or like some natural produce of the air
That could not cease to be. Green leaves were here,
But ’twas the foliage of the rocks, the birch,
The yew, the holly, and the bright green thorn,
With hanging islands of resplendent furze:
And on a summit, distant a short space,
By any who should look beyond the dell,
A single mountain Cottage might be seen.
I gazed and gazed, and to myself I said,
“Our thoughts at least are ours; and this wild nook,
My Emma, I will dedicate to thee.”
—Soon did the spot become my other home,
My dwelling, and my out-of-doors abode.
And, of the Shepherds who have seen me there,
To whom I sometimes in our idle talk
Have told this fancy, two or three, perhaps,
Years after we are gone and in our graves,
When they have cause to speak of this wild place,
May call it by the name of Emma’s Dell.
Amid the smoke of cities did you pass
Your time of early youth; and there you learned,
From years of quiet industry, to love
The living Beings by your own fire-side,
With such a strong devotion, that your heart
Is slow towards the sympathies of them
Who look upon the hills with tenderness,
And make dear friendships with the streams and groves.
Yet we, who are transgressors in this kind,
Dwelling retired in our simplicity
Among the woods and fields, we love you well,
Joanna! and I guess, since you have been
So distant from us now for two long years,
That you will gladly listen to discourse
However trivial, if you thence are taught
That they, with whom you once were happy, talk
Familiarly of you and of old times.
While I was seated, now some ten days past,
Beneath those lofty firs, that overtop
Their antient neighbour, the old Steeple tower,
The Vicar from his gloomy house hard by
Came forth to greet me; and when he had asked,
“How fares Joanna, that wild-hearted Maid!
And when will she return to us?” he paused;
And, after short exchange of village news,
He with grave looks demanded, for what cause,
Reviving obsolete Idolatry,
I, like a Runic Priest, in characters
Of formidable size had chiseled out
Some uncouth name upon the native rock,
Above the Rotha, by the forest side.
—Now, by those dear immunities of heart
Engendered betwixt malice and true love,
I was not loth to be so catechized,
And this was my reply:—“As it befel,
One summer morning we had walked abroad
At break of day, Joanna and myself.
—’Twas that delightful season, when the broom,
Full-flowered, and visible on every steep,
Along the copses runs in veins of gold.
Our pathway led us on to Rotha’s banks;
And when we came in front of that tall rock
Which looks towards the East, I there stopped short,
And traced the lofty barrier with my eye
From base to summit; such delight I found
To note in shrub and tree, in stone and flower,
That intermixture of delicious hues,
Along so vast a surface, all at once,
In one impression, by connecting force
Of their own beauty, imaged in the heart.
—When I had gazed perhaps two minutes’ space,
Joanna, looking in my eyes, beheld
That ravishment of mine, and laughed aloud.
The rock, like something starting from a sleep,
Took up the Lady’s voice, and laughed again:
That antient Woman seated on Helm-crag
Was ready with her cavern; Hammar-Scar,
And the tall Steep of Silver-How sent forth
A noise of laughter; southern Loughrigg heard,
And Fairfield answered with a mountain tone:
Helvellyn far into the clear blue sky
Carried the Lady’s voice—old Skiddaw blew
His speaking-trumpet;—back out of the clouds
Of Glaramara southward came the voice;
And Kirkstone tossed it from his misty head.
Now whether, (said I to our cordial Friend
Who in the hey-day of astonishment
Smiled in my face) this were in simple truth
A work accomplished by the brotherhood
Of antient mountains, or my ear was touched
With dreams and visionary impulses,
Is not for me to tell; but sure I am
That there was a loud uproar in the hills.
And, while we both were listening, to my side
The fair Joanna drew, as if she wished
To shelter from some object of her fear.
—And hence, long afterwards, when eighteen moons
Were wasted, as I chanced to walk alone
Beneath this rock, at sun-rise, on a calm
And silent morning, I sat down, and there,
In memory of affections old and true,
I chiseled out in those rude characters
Joanna’s name upon the living stone.
And I, and all who dwell by my fire-side
Have called the lovely rock, Joanna’s Rock.”
There is an Eminence—of these our hills
The last that parleys with the setting sun.
We can behold it from our Orchard-seat;
And, when at evening we pursue our walk
Along the public way, this Cliff, so high
Above us, and so distant in its height,
Is visible, and often seems to send
Its own deep quiet to restore our hearts.
The meteors make of it a favorite haunt:
The star of Jove, so beautiful and large
In the mid heavens, is never half so fair
As when he shines above it. ’Tis in truth
The loneliest place we have among the clouds.
And She who dwells with me, whom I have loved
With such communion, that no place on earth
Can ever be a solitude to me,
Hath said, this lonesome Peak shall bear my name.
A narrow girdle of rough stones and crags,
A rude and natural causeway, interpos’d
Between the water and a winding slope
Of copse and thicket, leaves the eastern shore
Of Grasmere safe in its own privacy.
And there, myself and two beloved Friends,
One calm September morning, ere the mist
Had altogether yielded to the sun,
Sauntered on this retired and difficult way.
—Ill suits the road with one in haste, but we
Played with our time; and, as we strolled along,
It was our occupation to observe
Such objects as the waves had tossed ashore,
Feather, or leaf, or weed, or withered bough,
Each on the other heaped along the line
Of the dry wreck. And, in our vacant mood,
Not seldom did we stop to watch some tuft
Of dandelion seed or thistle’s beard,
Which, seeming lifeless half, and half impelled
By some internal feeling, skimmed along
Close to the surface of the lake that lay
Asleep in a dead calm—ran closely on
Along the dead calm lake, now here, now there,
In all its sportive wanderings all the while
Making report of an invisible breeze
That was its wings, its chariot, and its horse,
Its very playmate, and its moving soul.
—And often, trifling with a privilege
Alike indulged to all, we paused, one now,
And now the other, to point out, perchance
To pluck, some flower or water-weed, too fair
Either to be divided from the place
On which it grew, or to be left alone
To its own beauty. Many such there are,
Fair Ferns and Flowers, and chiefly that tall Fern
So stately, of the Queen Osmunda named;
Plant lovelier in its own retired abode
On Grasmere’s beach, than Naiad by the side
Of Grecian brook, or Lady of the Mere
Sole-sitting by the shores of old Romance.
—So fared we that sweet morning: from the fields,
Meanwhile, a noise was heard, the busy mirth
Of Reapers, Men and Women, Boys and Girls.
Delighted much to listen to those sounds,
And, in the fashion which I have described
Feeding unthinking fancies, we advanced
Along the indented shore; when suddenly,
Through a thin veil of glittering haze, we saw
Before us on a point of jutting land
The tall and upright figure of a Man
Attired in peasant’s garb, who stood alone
Angling beside the margin of the lake.
That way we turned our steps; nor was it long
Ere, making ready comments on the sight
Which then we saw, with one and the same voice
We all cried out, that he must be indeed
An idle man, who thus could lose a day
Of the mid harvest, when the labourer’s hire
Is ample, and some little might be stored
Wherewith to cheer him in the winter time.
Thus talking of that Peasant we approached
Close to the spot where with his rod and line
He stood alone; whereat he turned his head
To greet us—and we saw a man worn down
By sickness, gaunt and lean, with sunken cheeks
And wasted limbs, his legs so long and lean
That for my single self I looked at them,
Forgetful of the body they sustained.—
Too weak to labour in the harvest field,
The Man was using his best skill to gain
A pittance from the dead unfeeling lake
That knew not of his wants. I will not say
What thoughts immediately were ours, nor how
The happy idleness of that sweet morn,
With all its lovely images, was changed
To serious musing and to self-reproach.
Nor did we fail to see within ourselves
What need there is to be reserved in speech,
And temper all our thoughts with charity.
—Therefore, unwilling to forget that day,
My Friend, Myself, and She who then received
The same admonishment, have called the place
By a memorial name, uncouth indeed
As e’er by Mariner was given to Bay
Or Foreland on a new-discovered coast,
And Point Rash-Judgement is the Name it bears.
To M. H.
Our walk was far among the antient trees;
There was no road, nor any wood-man’s path;
But the thick umbrage, checking the wild growth
Of weed and sapling, on the soft green turf
Beneath the branches of itself had made
A track, which brought us to a slip of lawn,
And a small bed of water in the woods.
All round this pool both flocks and herds might drink
On its firm margin, even as from a Well,
Or some Stone-bason which the Herdsman’s hand
Had shaped for their refreshment; nor did sun
Or wind from any quarter ever come,
But as a blessing, to this calm recess,
This glade of water and this one green field;
The spot was made by Nature for herself:
The travellers know it not, and ’t will remain
Unknown to them: but it is beautiful;
And if a man should plant his cottage near,
Should sleep beneath the shelter of its trees,
And blend its waters with his daily meal,
He would so love it that in his death hour
Its image would survive among his thoughts:
And therefore, my sweet Mary, this still nook
With all its beeches we have named for You.
Lines Written When Sailing in a Boat at Evening
How rich the wave, in front, imprest
With evening twilight’s summer hues,
While, facing thus the crimson west,
The Boat her silent course pursues!
And see how dark the backward stream!
A little moment past, so smiling!
And still, perhaps, with faithless gleam,
Some other Loiterer beguiling.
Such views the youthful Bard allure;
But, heedless of the following gloom,
He deems their colours shall endure
Till peace go with him to the tomb.
—And let him nurse his fond deceit,
And what if he must die in sorrow!
Who would not cherish dreams so sweet,
Though grief and pain may come tomorrow?
Remembrance of Collins
Written Upon the Thames Near Richmond
Glide gently, thus for ever glide,
O Thames! that other Bards may see
As lovely visions by thy side
As now, fair River! come to me.
Oh glide, fair Stream! for ever so,
Thy quiet soul on all bestowing,
Till all our minds for ever flow
As thy deep waters now are flowing.
Vain thought! … Yet be as now thou art,
That in thy waters may be seen
The image of a poet’s heart,
How bright, how solemn, how serene!
Such as did once the Poet bless,
Who, pouring here a later23 ditty,
Could find no refuge from distress
But in the milder grief of pity.
Now let us, as we float along,
For him suspend the dashing oar;
And pray that never child of Song
May know that Poet’s sorrows more.
How calm! how still! the only sound,
The dripping of the oar suspended!
—The evening darkness gathers round
By virtue’s holiest Powers attended.
The Two Thieves
Or, The Last Stage of Avarice
Oh now that the genius of Bewick were mine,
And the skill which he learned on the Banks of the Tyne!
Then the Muses might deal with me just as they chose,
For I’d take my last leave both of verse and of prose.
What feats would I work with my magical hand!
Book learning and books should be banished the land:
And for hunger and thirst and such troublesome calls!
Every Ale-house should then have a feast on its walls.
The Traveller would hang his wet clothes on a chair;
Let them smoke, let them burn, not a straw would he care;
For the Prodigal Son, Joseph’s Dream and his Sheaves,
Oh, what would they be to my tale of two Thieves?
Little Dan is unbreeched, he is three birth-days old;
His Grandsire that age more than thirty times told;
There are ninety good seasons of fair and foul weather
Between them, and both go a-stealing together.
With chips is the Carpenter strewing his floor?
Is a cart-load of peats at an old Woman’s door?
Old Daniel his hand to the treasure will slide;
And his Grandson’s as busy at work by his side.
Old Daniel begins, he stops short—and his eye
Through the last look of dotage is cunning and sly.
’Tis a look which at this time is hardly his own,
But tells a plain tale of the days that are flown.
Dan once had a heart which was moved by the wires
Of manifold pleasures and many desires:
And what if he cherished his purse? ’Twas no more
Than treading a path trod by thousands before.
’Twas a path trod by thousands; but Daniel is one
Who went something farther than others have gone:
And now with old Daniel you see how it fares;
You see to what end he has brought his grey hairs.
The Pair sally forth hand in hand: ere the sun
Has peered o’er the beeches their work is begun:
And yet, into whatever sin they may fall,
This Child but half knows it, and that not at all.
They hunt through the street with deliberate tread,
And each in his turn is both leader and led;
And, wherever they carry their plots and their wiles,
Every face in the village is dimpled with smiles.
Neither checked by the rich nor the needy they roam;
For gray-headed Dan has a daughter at home,
Who will gladly repair all the damage that’s done;
And three, were it asked, would be rendered for one.
Old Man! whom so oft I with pity have eyed,
I love thee, and love the sweet Boy at thy side:
Long yet mayst thou live! for a teacher we see
That lifts up the veil of our nature in thee.
A Whirl-Blast from Behind the Hill
A whirl-blast from behind the hill
Rushed o’er the wood with startling sound:
Then all at once the air was still,
And showers of hail-stones pattered round.
Where leafless Oaks towered high above,
I sat within an undergrove
Of tallest hollies, tall and green;
A fairer bower was never seen.
From year to year the spacious floor
With withered leaves is covered o’er,
You could not lay a hair between:
And all the year the bower is green.
But see! where’er the hailstones drop
The withered leaves all skip and hop,
There’s not a breeze—no breath of air—
Yet here, and there, and every where
Along the floor, beneath the shade
By those embowering hollies made,
The leaves in myriads jump and spring,
As if with pipes and music rare
Some Robin Good-fellow were there,
And all those leaves, that jump and spring,
Were each a joyous, living thing.
Oh! grant me Heaven a heart at ease,
That I may never cease to find,
Even in appearances like these,
Enough to nourish and to stir my mind!
Song for the Wandering Jew
Though the torrents from their fountains
Roar down many a craggy steep,
Yet they find among the mountains
Resting-places calm and deep.
Though almost with eagle pinion
O’er the rocks the Chamois roam,
Yet he has some small dominion
Which, no doubt, he calls his home.
If on windy days the Raven
Gambol like a dancing skiff,
Not the less he loves his haven
On the bosom of the cliff.
Though the Sea-horse in the ocean
Own no dear domestic cave;
Yet he slumbers without motion
On the calm and silent wave.
Day and night my toils redouble!
Never nearer to the goal,
Night and day I feel the trouble
Of the Wanderer in my soul.
A Pastoral Poem
If from the public way you turn your steps
Up the tumultuous brook of Green-head Gill,
You will suppose that with an upright path
Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent
The pastoral Mountains front you, face to face.
But, courage! for beside that boisterous Brook
The mountains have all opened out themselves,
And made a hidden valley of their own.
No habitation there is seen; but such
As journey thither find themselves alone
With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites
That overhead are sailing in the sky.
It is in truth an utter solitude;
Nor should I have made mention of this Dell
But for one object which you might pass by,
Might see and notice not. Beside the brook
There is a straggling heap of unhewn stones!
And to that place a story appertains,
Which, though it be ungarnished with events,
Is not unfit, I deem, for the fire-side,
Or for the summer shade. It was the first,
The earliest of those tales that spake to me
Of Shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men
Whom I already loved, not verily
For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills
Where was their occupation and abode.
And hence this Tale, while I was yet a Boy
Careless of books, yet having felt the power
Of Nature, by the gentle agency
Of natural objects led me on to feel
For passions that were not my own, and think
(At random and imperfectly indeed)
On man, the heart of man, and human life.
Therefore, although it be a history
Homely and rude, I will relate the same
For the delight of a few natural hearts,
And, with yet fonder feeling, for the sake
Of youthful Poets, who among these Hills
Will be my second self when I am gone.
Upon the Forest-side in Grasmere Vale
There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name,
An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen,
Intense and frugal, apt for all affairs,
And in his Shepherd’s calling he was prompt
And watchful more than ordinary men.
Hence he had learned the meaning of all winds,
Of blasts of every tone; and, oftentimes,
When others heeded not, He heard the South
Make subterraneous music, like the noise
Of Bagpipers on distant Highland hills;
The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock
Bethought him, and he to himself would say,
“The winds are now devising work for me!”
And, truly, at all times the storm, that drives
The Traveller to a shelter, summoned him
Up to the mountains: he had been alone
Amid the heart of many thousand mists,
That came to him and left him on the heights.
So lived he till his eightieth year was past.
And grossly that man errs, who should suppose
That the green Valleys, and the Streams and Rocks
Were things indifferent to the Shepherd’s thoughts.
Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed
The common air; the hills, which he so oft
Had climbed with vigorous steps; which had impressed
So many incidents upon his mind
Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear;
Which like a book preserved the memory
Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved,
Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts,
So grateful in themselves, the certainty
Of honourable gain; these fields, these hills,
Which were his living Being, even more
Than his own blood—what could they less? had laid
Strong hold on his affections, were to him
A pleasurable feeling of blind love,
The pleasure which there is in life itself.
He had not passed his days in singleness.
He had a Wife, a comely Matron, old—
Though younger than himself full twenty years.
She was a woman of a stirring life,
Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had
Of antique form, this large for spinning wool,
That small for flax; and if one wheel had rest,
It was because the other was at work.
The Pair had but one Inmate in their house,
An only Child, who had been born to them
When Michael telling o’er his years began
To deem that he was old—in Shepherd’s phrase,
With one foot in the grave. This only Son,
With two brave Sheep-dogs tried in many a storm,
The one of an inestimable worth,
Made all their Household. I may truly say,
That they were as a proverb in the vale
For endless industry. When day was gone,
And from their occupations out of doors
The Son and Father were come home, even then
Their labour did not cease; unless when all
Turned to their cleanly supper-board, and there,
Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk,
Sat round their basket piled with oaten cakes,
And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when their meal
Was ended, Luke (for so the Son was named)
And his old Father both betook themselves
To such convenient work as might employ
Their hands by the fire-side; perhaps to card
Wool for the Housewife’s spindle, or repair
Some injury done to sickle, flail, or scythe,
Or other implement of house or field.
Down from the cieling by the chimney’s edge,
Which in our antient uncouth country style
Did with a huge projection overbrow
Large space beneath, as duly as the light
Of day grew dim the Housewife hung a Lamp;
An aged utensil, which had performed
Service beyond all others of its kind.
Early at evening did it burn and late,
Surviving Comrade of uncounted Hours,
Which going by from year to year had found
And left the couple neither gay perhaps
Nor cheerful, yet with objects and with hopes,
Living a life of eager industry.
And now, when Luke was in his eighteenth year,
There by the light of this old Lamp they sat,
Father and Son, while late into the night
The Housewife plied her own peculiar work,
Making the cottage through the silent hours
Murmur as with the sound of summer flies.
The Light was famous in its neighbourhood,
And was a public Symbol of the life
The thrifty Pair had lived. For, as it chanced,
Their Cottage on a plot of rising ground
Stood single, with large prospect, North and South,
High into Easedale, up to Dunmal-Raise,
And Westward to the village near the Lake;
And from this constant light, so regular
And so far seen, the House itself, by all
Who dwelt within the limits of the vale,
Both old and young, was named The Evening Star.
Thus living on through such a length of years,
The Shepherd, if he loved himself, must needs
Have loved his Help-mate; but to Michael’s heart
This son of his old age was yet more dear—
Effect which might perhaps have been produced
By that instinctive tenderness, the same
Blind Spirit, which is in the blood of all—
Or that a child, more than all other gifts,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts,
And stirrings of inquietude, when they
By tendency of nature needs must fail.
From such, and other causes, to the thoughts
Of the old Man his only Son was now
The dearest object that he knew on earth.
Exceeding was the love he bare to him,
His Heart and his Heart’s joy! For oftentimes
Old Michael, while he was a babe in arms,
Had done him female service, not alone
For dalliance and delight, as is the use
Of Fathers, but with patient mind enforced
To acts of tenderness; and he had rocked
His cradle with a woman’s gentle hand.
And, in a later time, ere yet the Boy
Had put on Boy’s attire, did Michael love,
Albeit of a stern unbending mind,
To have the young one in his sight, when he
Had work by his own door, or when he sat
With sheep before him on his Shepherd’s stool,
Beneath that large old Oak, which near their door
Stood, and, from its enormous breadth of shade
Chosen for the Shearer’s covert from the sun,
Thence in our rustic dialect was called
The Clipping Tree,24 a name which yet it bears.
There, while they two were sitting in the shade,
With others round them, earnest all and blithe,
Would Michael exercise his heart with looks
Of fond correction and reproof bestowed
Upon the Child, if he disturbed the sheep
By catching at their legs, or with his shouts
Scared them, while they lay still beneath the shears.
And when by Heaven’s good grace the Boy grew up
A healthy Lad, and carried in his cheek
Two steady roses that were five years old,
Then Michael from a winter coppice cut
With his own hand a sapling, which he hooped
With iron, making it throughout in all
Due requisites a perfect Shepherd’s Staff,
And gave it to the Boy; wherewith equipt
He as a Watchman oftentimes was placed
At gate or gap, to stem or turn the flock;
And to his office prematurely called
There stood the Urchin, as you will divine,
Something between a hindrance and a help;
And for this cause not always, I believe,
Receiving from his Father hire of praise.
Though nought was left undone which staff or voice,
Or looks, or threatening gestures could perform.
But soon as Luke, full ten years old, could stand
Against the mountain blasts, and to the heights,
Not fearing toil, nor length of weary ways,
He with his Father daily went, and they
Were as companions, why should I relate
That objects which the Shepherd loved before
Were dearer now? that from the Boy there came
Feelings and emanations, things which were
Light to the sun and music to the wind;
And that the Old Man’s heart seemed born again.
Thus in his Father’s sight the Boy grew up:
And now when he had reached his eighteenth year,
He was his comfort and his daily hope.
While in the fashion which I have described
This simple Household thus were living on
From day to day, to Michael’s ear there came
Distressful tidings. Long before the time
Of which I speak, the Shepherd had been bound
In surety for his Brother’s Son, a man
Of an industrious life, and ample means—
But unforeseen misfortunes suddenly
Had pressed upon him—and old Michael now
Was summoned to discharge the forfeiture,
A grievous penalty, but little less
Than half his substance. This unlooked-for claim,
At the first hearing, for a moment took
More hope out of his life than he supposed
That any old man ever could have lost.
As soon as he had gathered so much strength
That he could look his trouble in the face,
It seemed that his sole refuge was to sell
A portion of his patrimonial fields.
Such was his first resolve; he thought again,
And his heart failed him. “Isabel,” said he,
Two evenings after he had heard the news,
“I have been toiling more than seventy years,
And in the open sun-shine of God’s love
Have we all lived; yet if these fields of ours
Should pass into a Stranger’s hand, I think
That I could not lie quiet in my grave.
Our lot is a hard lot; the Sun itself
Has scarcely been more diligent than I,
And I have lived to be a fool at last
To my own family. An evil Man
That was, and made an evil choice, if he
Were false to us; and if he were not false,
There are ten thousand to whom loss like this
Had been no sorrow. I forgive him—but
’Twere better to be dumb than to talk thus.
When I began, my purpose was to speak
Of remedies and of a cheerful hope.
Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel; the land
Shall not go from us, and it shall be free;
He shall possess it, free as is the wind
That passes over it. We have, thou knowest,
Another Kinsman—he will be our friend
In this distress. He is a prosperous man,
Thriving in trade—and Luke to him shall go,
And with his Kinsman’s help and his own thrift
He quickly will repair this loss, and then
May come again to us. If here he stay,
What can be done? Where every one is poor
What can be gained?” At this the old man paused,
And Isabel sat silent, for her mind
Was busy, looking back into past times.
There’s Richard Bateman,25 thought she to herself,
He was a Parish-boy—at the Church-door
They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence,
And halfpennies, wherewith the neighbours bought
A Basket, which they filled with Pedlar’s wares;
And with this Basket on his arm the Lad
Went up to London, found a Master there,
Who out of many chose the trusty Boy
To go and overlook his merchandise
Beyond the seas; where he grew wondrous rich,
And left estates and moneys to the poor,
And at his birth-place built a Chapel floored
With Marble, which he sent from foreign lands.
These thoughts, and many others of like sort,
Passed quickly through the mind of Isabel,
And her face brightened. The Old Man was glad,
And thus resumed:—“Well, Isabel! this scheme
These two days has been meat and drink to me.
Far more than we have lost is left us yet.
—We have enough—I wish indeed that I
Were younger—but this hope is a good hope.
—Make ready Luke’s best garments, of the best
Buy for him more, and let us send him forth
Tomorrow, or the next day, or tonight:
—If he could go, the Boy should go tonight.”
Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth
With a light heart. The Housewife for five days
Was restless morn and night, and all day long
Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare
Things needful for the journey of her Son.
But Isabel was glad when Sunday came
To stop her in her work; for, when she lay
By Michael’s side, she for the two last nights
Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep:
And when they rose at morning she could see
That all his hopes were gone. That day at noon
She said to Luke, while they two by themselves
Were sitting at the door, “Thou must not go:
We have no other child but thee to lose,
None to remember—do not go away,
For if thou leave thy Father he will die.”
The Lad made answer with a jocund voice;
And Isabel, when she had told her fears,
Recovered heart. That evening her best fare
Did she bring forth, and all together sat
Like happy people round a Christmas fire.
Next morning Isabel resumed her work;
And all the ensuing week the house appeared
As cheerful as a grove in Spring: at length
The expected letter from their Kinsman came,
With kind assurances that he would do
His utmost for the welfare of the Boy;
To which requests were added that forthwith
He might be sent to him. Ten times or more
The letter was read over; Isabel
Went forth to show it to the neighbours round;
Nor was there at that time on English Land
A prouder heart than Luke’s. When Isabel
Had to her house returned, the Old Man said,
“He shall depart tomorrow.” To this word
The Housewife answered, talking much of things
Which, if at such short notice he should go,
Would surely be forgotten. But at length
She gave consent, and Michael was at ease.
Near the tumultuous brook of Green-head Gill,
In that deep Valley, Michael had designed
To build a sheep-fold;26 and, before he heard
The tidings of his melancholy loss,
For this same purpose he had gathered up
A heap of stones, which close to the brook side
Lay thrown together, ready for the work.
With Luke that evening thitherward he walked;
And soon as they had reached the place he stopped,
And thus the Old Man spake to him:—“My Son,
Tomorrow thou wilt leave me: with full heart
I look upon thee, for thou art the same
That wert a promise to me ere thy birth,
And all thy life hast been my daily joy.
I will relate to thee some little part
Of our two histories; ’t will do thee good
When thou art from me, even if I should speak
Of things thou canst not know of.—After thou
First cam’st into the world, as it befalls
To new-born infants, thou didst sleep away
Two days, and blessings from thy Father’s tongue
Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on,
And still I loved thee with increasing love.
Never to living ear came sweeter sounds
Than when I heard thee by our own fire-side
First uttering, without words, a natural tune;
When thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy
Sing at thy Mother’s breast. Month followed month,
And in the open fields my life was passed
And in the mountains, else I think that thou
Hadst been brought up upon thy Father’s knees.
But we were playmates, Luke: among these hills,
As well thou know’st, in us the old and young
Have played together, nor with me didst thou
Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.”
Luke had a manly heart; but at these words
He sobbed aloud. The Old Man grasped his hand,
And said, “Nay, do not take it so—I see
That these are things of which I need not speak.
—Even to the utmost I have been to thee
A kind and a good Father: and herein
I but repay a gift which I myself
Received at others’ hands; for, though now old
Beyond the common life of man, I still
Remember them who loved me in my youth.
Both of them sleep together: here they lived,
As all their Forefathers had done; and when
At length their time was come, they were not loth
To give their bodies to the family mould.
I wished that thou shouldst live the life they lived.
But ’tis a long time to look back, my Son,
And see so little gain from sixty years.
These fields were burthened when they came to me;
Till I was forty years of age, not more
Than half of my inheritance was mine.
I toiled and toiled; God blessed me in my work,
And till these three weeks past the land was free.
—It looks as if it never could endure
Another Master. Heaven forgive me, Luke,
If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good
That thou shouldst go.” At this the Old Man paus’d;
Then, pointing to the Stones near which they stood,
Thus, after a short silence, he resumed:
“This was a work for us; and now, my Son,
It is a work for me. But, lay one Stone—
Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands.
Nay, Boy, be of good hope:—we both may live
To see a better day. At eighty-four
I still am strong and stout;—do thou thy part,
I will do mine.—I will begin again
With many tasks that were resigned to thee;
Up to the heights, and in among the storms,
Will I without thee go again, and do
All works which I was wont to do alone,
Before I knew thy face.—Heaven bless thee, Boy!
Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast
With many hopes—It should be so—Yes—yes—
I knew that thou couldst never have a wish
To leave me, Luke: thou hast been bound to me
Only by links of love: when thou art gone,
What will be left to us!—But, I forget
My purposes. Lay now the corner-stone,
As I requested; and hereafter, Luke,
When thou art gone away, should evil men
Be thy companions, think of me, my Son,
And of this moment; hither turn thy thoughts,
And God will strengthen thee: amid all fear
And all temptation, Luke, I pray that thou
Mayst bear in mind the life thy Fathers lived,
Who, being innocent, did for that cause
Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well—
When thou return’st, thou in this place wilt see
A work which is not here; a covenant
’Twill be between us—But whatever fate
Befall thee, I shall love thee to the last,
And bear thy memory with me to the grave.”
The Shepherd ended here; and Luke stooped down,
And, as his Father had requested, laid
The first stone of the Sheep-fold. At the sight
The Old Man’s grief broke from him, to his heart
He pressed his Son, he kissed him and wept;
And to the House together they returned.
Next morning, as had been resolved, the Boy
Began his journey, and when he had reached
The public Way, he put on a bold face;
And all the Neighbours as he passed their doors
Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers,
That followed him till he was out of sight.
A good report did from their Kinsman come,
Of Luke and his well-doing: and the Boy
Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news,
Which, as the Housewife phrased it, were throughout
The prettiest letters that were ever seen.
Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts.
So, many months passed on: and once again
The Shepherd went about his daily work
With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now
Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour
He to that valley took his way, and there
Wrought at the Sheep-fold. Meantime Luke began
To slacken in his duty; and at length
He in the dissolute city gave himself
To evil courses: ignominy and shame
Fell on him, so that he was driven at last
To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas.
There is a comfort in the strength of love;
’Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would break the heart:—Old Michael found it so.
I have conversed with more than one who well
Remember the Old Man, and what he was
Years after he had heard this heavy news.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks
He went, and still looked up upon the sun,
And listened to the wind; and as before
Performed all kinds of labour for his Sheep,
And for the land his small inheritance.
And to that hollow Dell from time to time
Did he repair, to build the Fold of which
His flock had need. ’Tis not forgotten yet
The pity which was then in every heart
For the Old Man—and ’tis believed by all
That many and many a day he thither went,
And never lifted up a single stone.
There, by the Sheep-fold, sometimes was he seen
Sitting alone, with that his faithful Dog,
Then old, beside him, lying at his feet.
The length of full seven years from time to time
He at the building of this Sheep-fold wrought,
And left the work unfinished when he died.
Three years, or little more, did Isabel
Survive her Husband: at her death the estate
Was sold, and went into a Stranger’s hand.
The Cottage which was named The Evening Star
Is gone—the ploughshare has been through the ground
On which it stood; great changes have been wrought
In all the neighbourhood:—yet the Oak is left
That grew beside their Door; and the remains
Of the unfinished Sheep-fold may be seen
Beside the boisterous brook of Green-head Gill.